'It's a pleasure to have Azpi here'

Frank Lampard and Cesar Azpilicueta’s relationship goes back over eight years, and the boss believes our club captain is as important to Chelsea as ever.

Azpilicueta joined Chelsea in 2012 when Lampard was still a player here, and is by some distance the longest-serving member of his former team-mate’s squad.

It is not often he doesn’t start but that was the case at Brighton on Monday, with Reece James preferred at right-back. Despite that, Lampard is keen to underline just what a vital role Azpilicueta has to play irrespective of whether or not he is selected.

‘He’s done a great job of being club captain,’ said the boss.

‘Since I’ve been in the role he’s been a huge help to me in terms of how he’s handled himself on and off the pitch, how much he feels for this club, how much he communicates with the squad.

‘We can all see the quality of Reece James and the competition I have in that right-back position. Azpi’s professionalism means he is going to be as important for us this year as he always is.

‘I can’t ask players who are as competitive as Azpi to be content with missing one game,’ added Lampard.

‘Every player should be really keen to play every game; I know Azpi is like that. I know that from playing with him. But when you have someone like Azpi, with the qualities he has as captain, I know he gives everything, whether he plays or sometimes he doesn’t, he will have the same positive impact on the group off the pitch. That’s all I can ask for, and it’s a pleasure to have him.’

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