Frank Lampard has warned his side will have to be at their best to get the better of league leaders Tottenham when the two sides meet at Stamford Bridge this weekend.
The Blues were twice victorious against Jose Mourinho’s men last season but Lampard does not feel that will have much bearing on this latest contest, particularly given the changes in both squads since the most recent game in February.
Speaking via video link at his pre-match press conference, Lampard also reflected on the impact of Roman Abramovich ahead of the 1000th game of his ownership this weekend and paid tribute to his childhood idol, the late Diego Maradona, who passed away this week.
However, the head coach started by looking ahead to third against first in the Premier League on Sunday.
‘Chelsea against Tottenham is extra special anyway because of the rivalry between the two teams but the fact we’re both in good form and towards to the top of the table definitely adds spice,’ he said.
‘We’re all fighting for those kind of positions so all eyes will be drawn to it. I certainly don’t put anything on the fact we beat them twice last season. Every new year brings something else and Tottenham invested heavily in the break to bring in some very good players to strengthen what was already a really strong squad. I’m expecting a tough match - their start to the season has shown that.’
Lampard was asked whether the Blues and Spurs are title contenders this season following Mourinho playing down his team’s credentials…
‘I understand Jose’s answer and that’s the position we should be in because the marker has been set by Liverpool and Manchester City in the last few seasons.
‘We’re early on in the season really in terms of games so we shouldn’t get carried away with our teams. It’s good that we’re competing high up but there’s such a long way to go.’
The boss is also happy with added competition in the group...
‘It’s difficult but I’m happy with the level of competition at the moment. If it’s a problem for me to pick the team then we’ll turn that into a positive to try to make our squad one of our strengths.
‘One of the best things I’ve seen from us recently is the balance in our team. I’d like to think we’re not an overly attacking team that will leave ourselves vulnerable but we’ll have to be aware, particularly of players like Harry Kane.’
There were also warm words in memory of the late Diego Maradona…
‘Diego Maradona was my idol growing up. I was born into a football family but he was the player on the world stage that made me fall in love with the game.
'I vividly remember vividly World Cups in the early 1980s and I wasn’t even that put out by the Hand of God because his individual brilliance overcame that as I grew up. I was fortunate enough to meet him very briefly, he’s a footballing god and it’s very sad he’s no longer with us.’
Reacting to this week’s news that 2,000 Chelsea fans will be able to attend our upcoming game against Leeds, Frank was encouraged…
‘I’m delighted for that. It’s a great first small step towards where we want to get to and hopefully, if things are done well and we see that the safety is very comfortable for everybody, then we’ll move quickly up and get more fans because everybody is desperate to get back in the right way.’
Finally, Lampard had a message of thanks to the owner ahead of a milestone match this weekend…
‘The message from me and the players is to try and win the football match. I’m sure that will be the best way to mark a very special landmark. As manager and as a player who was involved in a lot of those games, I can give him a huge thank you because nothing that we have achieved in the Roman Abramovich era could have happened without him and his support.
‘It’s not just the financial input but also the development of the training ground, the love and time put into the Academy and the trophies we’ve been able to win have obviously all been made possible by him. We’re very thankful, I certainly am, but our end of the bargain now is to try to work to remain successful on the pitch.’