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Willian 'leaves a hole' as Chelsea face really tall order

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Willian. Photo: PA

Willian. Photo: PA

PA

Willian. Photo: PA

Chelsea head coach Frank Lampard has said there will be no negative feeling from him or the club toward Willian if, as expected, the Brazilian completes his free transfer to Arsenal.

Willian is unavailable for the Champions League match against Bayern Munich tonight because of an Achilles injury, and it is now almost certain that he has played his last match for the club.

The winger's absence has made it an even harder task for Chelsea, who must overcome a 3-0 first-leg defeat by the German champions without some key players, including Christian Pulisic and Cesar Azpilicueta.

Antonio Rudiger, the Chelsea defender, admitted it would be a "huge loss" for Chelsea if Willian left the club when his contract expired at the end of their season.

And Lampard added that the 31-year-old would have "given everything" to be fit enough to play in last week's FA Cup final and this trip to the Allianz Arena.

"I know Willian well, I have seen him," Lampard said. "He has carried this injury a little bit in the latter part of restart. In terms of being disappointed, certainly, as a club, we have done everything we can to explain to Willian.

"Mine and his relationship is very close and I would have no feeling of disappointment if he does move on. He is a fantastic man and a fantastic player."

Willian is understood to have wanted a three-year contract from Chelsea, who offered him only a two-year extension, despite Lampard's desire to keep him at Stamford Bridge.

"I don't want anyone to try to find a negative attitude," Lampard said. "The club have acted very well in this as well.

"He leaves a hole as a player who has been here for seven seasons, being part of successful teams. When I came in and we had a lot of issues in terms of younger players, players back from loan, transitional elements to the group, Willian was one you relied on in terms of his experience and quality."

Lampard said he had "no problem" with Willian representing a close rival, saying a player who is out of contract has the right to play "wherever they want".

The Chelsea head coach also said that Pulisic could miss the opening few games of next season because of his hamstring injury, while Azpilicueta will be out for around three weeks.

Lampard did not hide from the scale of the task facing his depleted team, although he will tell his players this could be a chance to do "something special" against one of Europe's most formidable teams.

"We have to believe we could have the opportunity to do something special," Lampard said.

"We have to go into the game with that thought, give everything to the game and play with confidence."

© Daily Telegraph, London

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