After a disappointing loss in the Champions League opener at Stamford Bridge against Valencia two weeks ago, Chelsea will be looking to make amends against Lille who also lost their first match, against Ajax.
In his pre-match press conference on Tuesday night, head coach Frank Lampard acknowledged once again that qualifying from this wide-open group will not be easy, and we will need to be at our best to deal with the threats posed by Lille, especially in front of their raucous home crowd. Failing to pick up any points at home two weeks has put Chelsea at a disadvantage already, and one that we can ill-afford not to remedy immediately.
“We have to be honest. Valencia wasn’t the worst game for us, we played okay and should’ve got a result, but it was a harsh lesson in switching off for a second and losing a match at this level. That idea ramps up even more when you play away from home at stadiums like this against top European teams. Lille have a lot of threats to us, particularly in attacking areas. They have a lot of speed and a lot of quality.
“It’s not the be all and end all, there are four more games after this, we have to see the big picture, but as we sit here now it’s certainly a game we have to be very ready for to try and pick up something. We can hopefully bring the confidence from the last two results back home tomorrow night. We have to trust that if we play at our best, we will get the result we want.”
With back-to-back wins for the first time this season, things are certainly looking up for Lampard’s young Blues, especially as in the second of those wins, Chelsea even managed to keep a clean sheet for the first time all season. The team’s inability to do so previously was an increasingly concerning problem, conceding 13 goals in 6 league games along the way, but finally the defence and the goalkeeping all came together for a solid 90-minute performance.
That should provide a solid boost of confidence for everyone concerned, especially young Kepa Arrizabalaga in goal, who’s looking to build on an excellent debut season that followed his world record transfer from Athletic Bilbao.
“After the clean sheet on Saturday, the person I was happiest for was Kepa. Even though it’s a team issue, goalkeepers pride themselves on clean sheets. One of the things I have seen since working with Kepa is that he is a very determined individual, he wants to improve every day. He is very focused and I love that.
“His confidence shouldn’t go down. The clean sheets are not always his own responsibility, but also when he thinks they might have been his responsibility, he is very open to accept that fact and work to improve. I have been really impressed with him. He’s managed to become Spain’s number one which when you think about who he’s competing with at that level is very serious.
“He is a great age for us in terms of where he’s at in his career. He grew as last season went on to help Chelsea win games, and I think he is growing again now. I am very happy with him as a player. If anything I can say in his role and his status within the group, he can become a bit more vocal because that’s what great goalkeepers do.”
- Frank Lampard; source: Chelsea FC
Just a few days shy of his 25th birthday, Kepa is just at the start of what will hopefully be a very long and successful career at Chelsea, while developing into one of the leaders of Chelsea’s burgeoning young core of super-talent.
Youth have been at the epicentre of Lampard’s project at Chelsea so far, but amid the attention lavished on the likes of Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Reece James, Fikayo Tomori went a bit under the radar — despite winning the Player of the year award at Derby County last season.
In fact, in the summer, Tomori was set to depart on loan once again ... until David Luiz’s shock deadline day transfer to Arsenal forced otherwise. Just a few weeks later, it seems silly that Chelsea had even considered not keeping Tomori around, having quickly risen to the top of the centre back depth chart with Antonio Rudiger continuing to be out with injuries. Lampard of course isn’t surprised by this development, having worked with Tomori last season, and expects the 21-year-old to go from strength to strength — just as he expects Tammy Abraham to do so as well.
“Tomori — I worked with him last year. I have a lot of trust in him, that is pretty evident because it was my choice to keep him at the club and not loan him out into the Premier League where he was much wanted by other clubs, because I believe in him.
”As far as Rudiger I don’t see it as a one for one, I have four very good centre backs, contesting for two or three positions and what Tomori has done is give himself a really, really good start in the race from the way he has played and now he is competing officially for one of those starting slots.On top of that he must keep working and improve. There’s a lot more to come from him.”
”Abraham is a different story. He has been out on loan a lot more scoring goals in the Championship. He has been given his chance this year and has taken it really well, scoring goals. Infectious in how he trains around the group with a great personality, giving defenders problems, even against Brighton at the weekend when he didn’t score. His performance was great.”
- Frank Lampard; source: Football.London
Here’s hoping the players, old and young, perform to their potential and bag all three points tomorrow night!