Frank Lampard was joined by Petr Cech and Ashley Cole at a special event in Tokyo on Sunday afternoon, coming face to face with Barcelona’s squad and coach Ernesto Valverde.
They came together alongside former Blue Juliano Belletti, now an ambassador for Barça, in front of invited guests to preview Tuesday night’s match which forms part of the Rakuten Cup, with Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu confirming there will likely be debuts for new signings Antoine Griezmann, Frenkie de Jong and Neto.
Lampard spoke of the great rivalry between the two teams down the years and the esteem in which he holds our next opponents.
‘Barcelona are a team that I have some great memories of playing against, some good and some bad,’ he said. ‘I have always had a huge respect for them because when you play against Barcelona you know you are playing against, they say, more than a club, and I agree with that. We are very proud to be here to play this match.
‘Everybody has been very friendly, very respectful and we really appreciate that. When we come to Japan, the welcome we get is unforgettable.’
Chelsea Chairman Bruce Buck added to Lampard’s message and discussed the rivalry with the Spanish champions.
‘We have enjoyed our visit here and the facilities have all been great,’ he said. ‘Our history in playing Barcelona has been long and colourful. Barcelona won more than we did but football is like life and you remember the victories more than you remember the defeats. At the Nou Camp in 2012, we had one of our greatest victories and one of our greatest goals from Ramires.
‘I would like to thank Rakuten for inviting us to play in the Rakuten Cup. It will be good preparation for our league season. I would also like to thank our sponsor Yokohama Tyres for the support they have provided, and also the J.League who have been very helpful and provided a lot of assistance for our trip.’
Chelsea take on Barcelona at the Saitama Stadium on the outskirts of Tokyo this Tuesday 23 July. The game kicks off at 11.30am UK time and is available to watch on chelseafc.com and The 5th Stand app.