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Lampard picks out Kovacic, Abraham for special praise against Barcelona

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Impressive performances

Barcelona v Chelsea - Preseason Friendly Photo by Kaz Photography/Getty Images

Chelsea rounded off the Japan trip with a satisfying win against Barcelona earlier today, dispatching the Blaugrana, 2-1 with solid performances across the board, especially in deep defending and during high pressing opportunities.

As always, preseason games are meant for physical conditioning, first and foremost, and for finding solutions by experimenting with various combinations and strategies, but ideally they also serve as tactical preparation for the new season ahead. This win will also surely go a long way towards boosting the confidence of the team in the new manager — it’s one thing to talk about the high spirits in camp, it’s another to show it on the pitch by beating (an under-strength and out of shape) Barcelona!

Two players from the game were picked out for a bit of special praise from the manager as well. One of them was midfielder Mateo Kovacic who, not unexpectedly, looked right at home alongside Jorginho in the 4-2-3-1 formation’s double pivot. Kovacic dribbled out of pressure at will, picked out some beautiful forward passes to Mason Mount and Emerson, and put in a solid shift defensively. Naturally, Lampard was impressed.

“I thought he was outstanding in the first half. I really liked Kovacic last season, I watched Chelsea a lot. I saw lots in his game I really liked and what I’ve found here on this tour from the first day he turned up is a hungry attitude, desire to work and an incredible talent on the ball and I want to work with him and help him improve.

“I think there’s so much talent there and I really like him. I’m really pleased, we know we’ve got numbers in midfield areas but I can’t help but be excited by some of the elements in his performance today and I think there’s even more to come.”

Jorginho himself didn’t seem bothered by having another midfielder next to him either, and frequently traded off with Kovacic in pressing forward or dropping back, just as one should in the pivot. It was one of Jorginho’s pressure plays that created the game’s first goal, as he blocked a pass from a surprised Sergio Busquets, and the rebound fell kindly to a wide open Tammy Abraham. The youngster then casually stepped around Marc-Andre ter Stegen to open the scoring.

Overall, Tammy showed good strength against Barcelona’s centre-back pairing of Samuel Umtiti and Gerard Pique, and also linked up with the attackers, though with less consistent success. Minutes before scoring, he missed a sitter from a rebound off of a Christian Pulisic shot, but as all great strikers do, Tammy didn’t let the moment get to him and got on with the game. Lampard praised Abraham for his performance and the goal, his first of the preseason, which should do his confidence a world of good for the season ahead.

“I’m very happy this evening. Tammy is a goalscorer, hungry for goals, constantly wanting to score. I saw that in the Championship last season, he’s proven that and now it’s his time to prove it at Chelsea. Confidence is big for goalscorers so to get his goal will put him in good stead.

“Olivier Giroud came on and did very well as well. He showed his different style and attributes he brings, and the same for Batshuayi. There’s competition. People keep talking a lot about it and they all need to rise to the competition and show they can be strikers for Chelsea. I’ve got full confidence in them and it’s great for Tammy.”

-Frank Lampard; source: Chelsea FC

With a clean slate on offer to all the players, old and young, everyone should be looking to impress the manager as we move closer to the start of a new season. Competition for places and quality selection headaches can only bode well for Chelsea.