Ahead of our Premier League meeting with Manchester City this week, Pep Guardiola has been speaking about the man in the opposite dugout and has hailed Frank Lampard as ‘an extraordinary manager’ whose side are a delight for him to watch.
The two men go head-to-head for only the second time as managerial equals at Stamford Bridge on Thursday evening, though their history goes back much further to when Lampard was a player battling against the might and majesty of Guardiola’s Barcelona.
There were two epic Champions League battles in 2008/09 and 2011/12, with the latter featuring Lampard’s leadership coming to the fore as he took on the captain’s armband following John Terry’s dismissal in the Nou Camp and helped us to a famous victory on the way to European glory at last.
Respect clearly emanates between the two men and Guardiola’s words of praise in his pre-match press conference this week are clear evidence of his admiration for Lampard’s work in just his second season as a coach.
‘Frank Lampard was an extraordinary football player and he will be an extraordinary manager,’ said the Spaniard. ‘He did a really good season and I am delighted to watch his team. They are the elite of European football. They have incredible players in all departments.’
Guardiola expanded on his assessment of Chelsea’s season so far, highlighting the use of young homegrown players as particularly impressive. The 49-year-old was himself a product of Barcelona’s famed La Masia youth academy and spent a season managing the club’s ‘B’ team before succeeding Frank Rijkaard in the top job.
In his first summer in the role, Guardiola re-signed Gerard Pique and promoted Sergio Busquets, both La Masia graduates, and the pair played a huge part in the club’s European dominance over the coming years. There are, therefore, few better placed to pass comment on Lampard’s use of his Chelsea youngsters this campaign.
‘When you start as a manager, you have a passion and no fears,’ the Catalan explained. ‘You take decisions without compromise, which he has done by giving opportunities to the young, talented players Chelsea have because his Academy in the last five or 10 years has done really well.
‘He knows at the big clubs that you have to get results but in the Premier League they are in a good position to qualify for the Champions League next season, which is one of the main targets for the six or seven top teams in England. That would make it a very good season.’
Lampard will be looking for his first victory over Guardiola as a coach following our narrow 2-1 defeat at the Etihad back in November.
Lampard: We have to be at our best