Frank Lampard’s Chelsea side has what it takes to make it out of the group stages of the Champions League and into the knockout phase. That was the message from the boss as he addressed the media at Cobham ahead of tomorrow night’s opening group game against Valencia.
He acknowledged the challenge from the three teams we face in the coming weeks is a tough one but with players we have who are experienced in the competition plus the young ones new to it but in good form, qualification is the target they are being set.
Lampard will, however, warn the younger Blues new to the Champions League about the way these games have to be played.
‘It is different in its nature,’ he said. ‘The main thing I found as a player is your concentration and focus levels throughout every game have to be absolutely spot on. Not to say you can get away with things in the Premier League but the higher level of player in the Champions League and the different style of game that comes sometimes can surprise you. There are teams that are fantastic on the counter-attack and can hurt you in one second when you feel like you are in control, so that focus throughout will be the main point I will make.’
‘Toni is injured,’ Lampard confirmed. ‘At the weekend he bothered a small groin problem that he has been carrying the last couple of weeks so he is out. He will have a scan later today to see where he is at. Hopefully it is not long-term.’
There are no other fresh injury concerns and Lampard gave an update on the recovery of Callum Hudson-Odoi, Reece James and N’Golo Kante.
‘They are fit but not match fit. Callum is getting extra work in and with Reece, he played in the Under-23s and they may need another game in the Under-23s in them before they are ready for action. N’Golo similarly. Although not to play in Under-23s, he will have more training to do just because the injury has been bothering him.’
If selected tomorrow, Tammy Abraham will make his Champions League debut.
His hat-trick at Wolves moved him up to Premier League joint topscorer, leading to more media stories about whether the 21-year-old may commit his international future to Nigeria rather than England.
Lampard did not want to be drawn into a subject that falls under Gareth Southgate, apart from to say that Abraham’s current form is bound to raise interest in him. On how the player is performing for his club, his manager had this to say:
‘I never had clear expectations for him, only the fact that I believed in him and trusted him. I know a lot has been made of the ban giving young players potential opportunities but I felt the need and the time was right for Tammy to have his opportunity at this club anyway due to the quality that he has.
‘I am really delighted he has his goals and I think there is even more to come, so he is in a good place and a place that now just requires him to sustain and improve even more, and with his mentality every day, the way he is, I hope to see that.’