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Frank Lampard Completes 60-Minute Practice Match, Will Start Against Manchester United

Unfortunately he's forgotten how to play football.
Unfortunately he's forgotten how to play football.

Frank Lampard Returns

The Frank Lampard injury saga has gone on long enough - between the midfielder's substitution in the third week of the season against Stoke City and his ten minute cameo in the 1-1 to Tottenham last weekend he was out for three and a half months - and originally he wasn't even supposed to have missed a game. I'm updating the Frank Lampard injury timeline after the jump, but if you've been following along at all I'm sure you'll know that this has been one of the most frustrating injury sagas Chelsea fans can remember.

Lampard's presence has exposed a lack of creativity depth in Chelsea's midfield (injuries to Yossi Benayoun and Yuri Zhirkov haven't helped much), and his return will hopefully restore some balance in a midfield that's been big on power but not much else. The attack flourished with Lampard starting, but has faded since he's left - slightly ludicrously, 45% of all Chelsea goals this season have come in games Lampard has started, despite him having been out for the vast majority of the season.

After coming on as a substitute against Spurs, the last hurdle before committing him to a full start was playing a 60-minute match today without any problems. Lampard apparently had no problems in the 11 vs. 11 at Cobham, and is now expected to start in the key clash with league leaders Manchester United on Sunday.

Chelsea have been waiting on a fit Frank Lampard to give the suddenly flat season a spark. Well, here he is.

An Injury Timeline

August 14th: Chelsea start the season with Frank Lampard fully fit. The Blues cruise to a 6-0 Win against West Bromwich Albion.

August 28th: Lampard starts in 2-0 win against Stoke City. The midfielder misses a penalty and is substituted early, looking in serious pain throughout the game. Chelsea announce that Lampard will have surgery for a hernia and will be unavailable for England duty during the international break, but expect him to return to the Chelsea side within two weeks.

I idly tease my fiancee and resident Frank Lampard fangirl with the immortal line 'It would be funny if he were out for a long time just to see your reaction'.

September 10th: Frank Lampard ruled out for the West Ham game in a precautionary move.

Lampard after surgery did very well I think because in seven days he was able to train but obviously we want to give him more time to recover 100 percent.

-Carlo Ancelotti

September 13th: Lampard is said to be unavailable for Chelsea's trip to Slovakia, but 'may start' against Blackpool on the weekend.

September 19th: Frank Lampard does not start against Blackpool on the weekend.

September 25th: Nor the match against City.

September 27th: Lampard has resumed training with the team but is still in considerable pain. Chelsea tack on another two weeks to his recovery schedule. It's around this point that he tears a tendon in his groin.

October 14th: Frank Lampard ruled out for the match against Aston Villa, with the team citing a 'muscle pull' in his groin.

November 2nd: Lampard 'possibly fit' for the weekend clash against Liverpool.

November 6th: In an interview with The Sun, Lampard says:

I'm probably fitter right now than I was in the first game of the season against West Brom - that's because of all the work I have been doing behind the scenes.

November 7th: Lampard definitely not fit, Chelsea beaten 2-0 at Anfield thanks in large part to weakened central midfield.

November 10th: Carlo Ancelotti announces that Frank Lampard is fit and ready to start for Saturday's match against Sunderland, although not yet ready for the full game.

November 12th: Frank Lampard suffers abductor problem, out for another three weeks.

December 3rd: Chelsea announce that Frank Lampard is unavailable to face Everton.

December 8th: After the 1-0 loss to Marseille in the Champions League, Carlo Ancelotti notes that Lampard's inclusion with the team for the weekend match against Tottenham Hotspur will be a 'late decision.'

December 10th: Rumours that Lampard would be returning to the squad for the London derby against Tottenham are quashed.

He is out, but I can say this with a smile because he trained well.

-Carlo Ancelotti.

December 12th: Lampard named to the substitutes bench against Tottenham Hotspur, comes on in the 78th minute.

December 16th: Frank Lampard completes 60 minutes of match-practice. Chelsea announce that he will start against Manchester United on the 19th.