With eight games to go in the Premier League season and fixtures coming thick and fast, Frank Lampard is going need the entire Chelsea squad to contribute. Unfortunately for this Thursday, that will still not include Fikayo Tomori and Callum Hudson-Odoi, who both remain out with injuries.
“We are all the same as we were for Aston Villa. Fikayo Tomori still probably about a week away from training with us. Callum Hudson-Odoi is still searching for fitness, fit but not match fit yet."
Fortunately, the squad will include Willian and Pedro through the rest of the season, after they both agreed shot-term temporary contract extensions earlier this week. Lampard’s obviously delighted to have additional options for the wing, and certainly wouldn’t mind having Willian around next season either.
“I’m pleased, negotiations were relatively easy, because both sides wanted the same thing, the two players wanted to make sure they could see the season out with us. At this point we need them in the squad they are both important players for us, so I’m happy.
“I try and have a good relationship with them on and off the pitch, and the board do that as well. The conversations have been relatively easy - and when I say that, I mean both club and players want the same thing. At the same time you have to understand their part and they have to understand ours. It was pretty simple because we have a good relationship with them. That’s the way it works and hopefully we can carry on going forward in all senses.”
“I really don’t want want to get into beyond this season — I want Willian to play his best football in the next nine games and that’s it. Behind the scenes I get on very well with Willian and the club get on well with him, so we’ll see what happens with that one.”
In more immediate concerns, we have Manchester City coming in on Thursday, and Pep Guardiola’s squad have been in excellent form in the first two games of Project Restart. They registered an impressive 5-0 win against Burnley on Monday, even with the likes of Kevin de Bruyne rested.
At this stage of the season, every game is like a final, where any slip up will bear huge consequences. Chelsea's win against Villa has given us a bit of a safety net in case Thursday night proves to be a bad one, but Lampard and the team are ready to go in with a winning mentality.
"Probably the fact that when you play a team of the level of Manchester City you can play well — and we did play well [in the first meeting], we certainly matched them in general play — but if you have a couple of moments in the game where you switch off, they have individuals in the team and a way of playing that gives you problems.
“We’ll have to be at our best to try to match the level of performance we had, take our chances when we get them — because we had chances there that we didn’t take — and also be very, very vigilant in how we defend. The work ethic of the team in defence has to be huge to try to stop them playing. It’s a huge challenge and we know that, but we have to believe in ourselves, be confident and give it our best because if we do, I have belief in this team that we can go against anybody.”
Right now, Chelsea have a five-point gap to Manchester United behind us in fifth — they play shortly against Sheffield United in a top-six six-pointer — while also closing in on third placed Leicester City who sit only four points above Chelsea having played an extra game.
Thinking optimistically, a win against City would take Chelsea to just a point behind Leicester City and create additional breathing space ahead of the chasing pack. Thinking realistically ... well, let’s just be optimistic instead.
"I think we have to be realistic and honest. We look above us and below us and try to amass as many points as we can. I think Leicester have been fantastic this season, we know that."
“The fact we are three points off them, we can be aware of. We also have our own tough games in front of us so I think it is something we need to do to focus on ourselves to get as high up the league as we can. Leicester are one place above us. We set our sights there. The competition is fierce for the top four. I am not focusing on just Leicester, Manchester United, Wolves, Sheffield United or Tottenham. We just focus on ourselves.”
-Frank Lampard; source: Football.London
An important Thursday night at the Bridge awaits. Onwards and upwards!