Chelsea got back to winning ways with a satisfying 2-1 win over Aston Villa on Wednesday night. Tammy Abraham opened the scoring and assisted the winning goal, but left the game late in some discomfort, either due to his previous (hip) injury or due to the clash of knees with a defender.
Abraham’s performance underlined his importance to the team. Fortunately, it sounds like he might be okay to play tomorrow as well. Unfortunately, the same can’t (yet) be said of Antonio Rudiger, who may have to get a rehab start or two under his belt in the reserves first to find the level of match fitness he needs.
“Tammy Abraham is good. He hasn’t done much in between games. We will make sure of that in the morning but at the moment we’re good.
“Toni has had a really good week of training. We have had to get him some sort of match fitness which he has gone through this week. Tomorrow comes too soon but he’s had a great week and he’s on the verge.”
Chelsea’s season has been defined by injuries almost as much as by the team’s reliance on youth. And it hasn’t all been plain sailing.
Callum Hudson-Odoi, for example, returned from his Achilles tear with three assists in his first three games but his performances have become increasingly inconsistent since. Lampard himself has deemed the teenager only good for the bench in the past few games. The recent hamstring strain hasn’t helped his cause either.
Lampard though is not worried, chalking those inconsistencies up to Callum’s age and relative inexperience. Better times lie ahead.
“His best is to come. He’s just turned 19. He’s in a real early stage of his development and come back from a really serious injury. I’ve had to manage that with him, and we have real competition in wide areas.
“He’s going to get better and better. He has to apply himself in training every day, has to show when he comes on what he can do and bring to the table if he’s going to start more games. For sure he will do that, but we’ve got to be steady with Callum.”
An in-form Hudson-Odoi could be quite useful as Chelsea contend with the busy festive schedule, when the cliche of “no easy games” is applied even more freely than is usual in the Premier League.
Everton’s sacking of manager Marco Silva yesterday will not have made things as any easier, as Lampard himself surely knows after going through countless managers in his time at Chelsea. Chelsea’s greatest night in fact came not long after the appointment of a former legend as interim manager. Duncan Ferguson is in no danger of winning the Champions League like Robbie Di Matteo, but the Toffees must not be taken for granted even as they sit in the relegation zone at the moment.
“First of all, any trip to Everton is tough. I went there as a player many a time. The atmosphere in the stadium and the support of the home fans is big. I am sure there will be a bounce effect for them, and for one of their heroes in charge of them in the short term.
“We will have to be very much on our guard. We slightly had it with West Ham last week. There was a lot of talk about what bad form they were in, and what might happen if they lost another game, and we lost the match. There’s a small reminder for us last Saturday.
“What I tell the players will be exactly the same: this is a dangerous, dangerous team to play at this moment particularly. They will have, certainly in the early parts of the game, and I think throughout, maybe an extra energy to them. Clubs rally at these moments, fans rally, and the players will want to rally and show what they can do. It’s going to be a tough, tough match.”
And it will only get tougher and more important from there as a Champions League game against Lille in midweek awaits. Lampard’s young Bblues need a win to march into the knockout round. Anything less would likely result in yet another Europa League campaign for the second half of the season.
Lampard, who’s been advocating positive reinforcement all season, is looking at these challenges in a positive light as well.
“It’s a big test for us. Generally, we have been really good. Performances even in defeat have had a lot of positives. West Ham was the one game which was the opposite to that.
“Now it’s how we react. We reacted really well against Villa, but the top teams, the better teams, have a consistency to them. There can’t just be small reactions.
“Can we go to a difficult game, with circumstances around it that make it even more difficult, and then can we get to the next stage of the Champions League?”
- Frank Lampard; source: Chelsea FC
But first things first, let’s bag three points at Goodison!