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Ajax latest ‘big test’ for Lampard’s young Chelsea sponges

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Learning experience

Chelsea FC v Newcastle United - Premier League Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images

Five wins in a row, a top four challenge that’s alive and well, and a youth revolution turning heads left and right — things are going quite well at Chelsea right now. The season may have began with mixed results, but slowly the plan appears to be coming together.

But we all know that things can change very quickly in football, especially when relying on very young players, for whom many games present brand new challenges and learning opportunities.

And that’s no different this week, as we travel to Amsterdam to take on last year’s Champions League semifinalists Ajax, who may have lost a couple key players from that team, but remain a very high quality and very dangerous outfit.

“Newcastle was an education in terms of trying to break down a team with 10 men behind the ball a lot of the time. Lille was a big education in terms of Champions League debuts. And now another one against Ajax, a top-level team who managed to reach the semi-finals and who play a certain way. I think particularly off the ball you have to be fully concentrated, in terms of what they can do to you with how they move and play.

“We got a good result in Lille, which changes the face of it slightly, and now these two games against Ajax are really big because they’re such a strong team. They’ve got six points on the board and they’ll give us a problem in terms of the atmosphere inside the stadium being strong. The movement of the team and the way they play football will be a big test for us. I think we’re going there relatively confident and take on the challenge.”

Losing the first game at home to Valencia put Chelsea into a tough spot immediately, and while the win at Lille restored normal service, the challenge remains difficult to ensure we finish at least second and qualify for the knockout rounds. In order to do that, we’ll need all the young stars to keep firing as they have been in the Premier League.

Fortunately, as Lampard puts it, they’re “sponges” when it comes to learning new things, especially Tammy Abraham, who will be looking for his 10th goal in all competitions this season on Wednesday night.

“What you see with Tammy is what you get: physicality, movement and enthusiasm to keep trying to be a problem for the defenders [...] He’s a sponge – he wants to listen, to get better, to score more goals, improve his game and help his team-mates. He’s got the beautiful base of that in terms of coaching. The goals, and performances, will show him what he can do at this level and hopefully can move him up the levels even more.”

-Frank Lampard; source: Chelsea FC

Indeed.

Tammy himself of course is confident.

“We know it’s a massive game for us. Ajax are like us, with a lot of young players that like to keep the ball and play good football. Off the ball as well they like to win it back quickly. It’s not going to be easy but I believe in myself and my team. Hopefully, we can get a result there.”

-Tammy Abraham; source: Goal

Hopefully!