Frank Lampard welcomes our first mid-week fixture of the season as an important opportunity for his players to improve their fitness and sharpness after a drastically shortened pre-season.
With such a short gap separating our final fixture of 2019/20, against Bayern Munich in the Champions League, and the start of the current Premier League season there has been little time for the usual pre-season preparations, leaving Lampard and his team playing catch-up.
However, with our Carabao Cup campaign getting under way at Stamford Bridge against Barnsley, our head coach is grateful for the chance to give his team more playing time, as well as progressing in the cup competition.
‘We’re in the position that this game for me is of course about getting through to the next round, it always would be, but I have huge eyes on the fitness of the team because we’re not fit now, which means our pressing game and the speed of our game, it will be very difficult to attain the levels that we want,’ he said.
‘So I’ll use this game primarily for the first-team squad to get there. With respect to Barnsley and respect for the competition, it’s a huge night for us for the fitness of our team.’
The importance of this opportunity to continue getting up to speed centres around Lampard’s concerns that his team may be behind some of our opponents in our schedule at this stage of the season, which is limiting our efforts to perform and play the style of football our head coach would like.
‘We’re in a very difficult position. I don’t want to compare us to all the other teams, but we had pretty much as short a break as you can have because of our Champions League game against Bayern Munich, which took us two weeks beyond the regular season, and then we came back and played when everyone else started, unlike a few other teams in the Premier League.
‘We also made some new signings, we also had double figures of quarantines at the start of pre-season, so we’re clearly in pre-season mode and that’s why we mustn’t get too judgmental. I’m not being too judgmental of the squad at this point because we are short on fitness for individuals in the team.
‘On top of that I want to work on how we play, what we do, what we’re about. We showed fantastic stuff for big periods last year and we want to move that step further. So every moment to work now is a moment to improve, that means on the training pitch and that means against Barnsley tomorrow night.’
However, while the fitness levels of the players may be high on Lampard’s list of priorities at the moment, nothing comes ahead of his desire to win the match and he won’t be taking our Championship opponents lightly.
‘I’ve been involved in many games of this type in my career, playing and managing now, and understand the potential difficulties of them. We have to have absolute respect for the opponent. I know Barnsley now from watching them, how they play, their coach, the system that they play. I’m sure that most teams that come to Stamford Bridge in a competition like this from the Championship, individuals will want to show and collectively they’ll want to show they can compete with us.’