Monday 22 January 2018

Lampard backs faltering Chelsea to retain Premier League title

Jamie Holland

Frank Lampard handed Chelsea a huge boost for their faltering Premier League title defence before declaring he has "no doubt" they will retain their crown if they repeat Sunday's performance at Tottenham.

Lampard made a surprise comeback from three and a half months out injured in the Blues' 1-1 draw at White Hart Lane.

The 32-year-old played the final 12 minutes of a game the champions should have won, with Didier Drogba missing a stoppage-time penalty that would have put his side back on top of the table.

The result extended Chelsea's worst run for a decade but the performance was a step in the right direction, from four previous winless league matches.

Manchester United's 1-0 victory over Arsenal at Old Trafford last night left Chelsea three points off the pace at the summit and midfielder Lampard reckoned emulating Sunday's performance against Spurs for the rest of the season would be enough to clinch the title.

"If we play with the spirit we played with (at Spurs), I have no doubt we'll win the league, because we've got the quality in our team," Lampard said. "Injuries have been tough on us, certain moments have also been tough on us.

"But with the spirit and ability we've got in our team, if we play like that, I've got all confidence that we can do it. It's very tough. We have to fight on a few fronts.

"Man City are there now; Man United, Arsenal as we know; teams like Tottenham are pushing behind.

"So we have to be at our best. But I think if we are at our best then we can go and win it."

Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti confirmed after Sunday's game that Lampard would play a friendly on Thursday and, all being well, would start Sunday's mouth-watering clash with Manchester United.

The player himself revealed he would also spend the week practising penalties after deciding not to pull rank on the hapless Drogba at White Hart Lane.

"I trained two days with the lads this week and haven't practised a penalty in three months," said Lampard, the Blues' spot-kick specialist.

"I always like to practise them and I thought it would've been wrong for me to come on and try to take personal glory scoring a winner on my return rather than Didi take it, who's been fit and playing and practising and scoring them.

"Listen, I could easily say I would've buried it but that's not the case always -- we can all miss them -- and credit for Didier for stepping up.

"Hopefully, I can practise some in the week and get back on them."

Petr Cech, meanwhile, insists that their poorest run of results for a decade is nothing compared to the debacle of Luiz Felipe Scolari's final days in charge at Stamford Bridge.

The Czech Republic goalkeeper claims the champions' results are out of keeping with their performances, unlike those that led to Scolari's sacking almost two years ago.

Asked if the slump was the biggest of his six-and-a-half-year Chelsea career, Cech said: "In terms of results, yes, but not in terms of performance. There were games where we deserved to win: Newcastle, Birmingham. We were only unlucky with the results.

"There was a period, obviously, before Scolari left that it was much worse."

The 28-year-old also acknowledged Sunday's crunch clash with Manchester United and the following week's match at Arsenal will be even more important, with Chelsea now fourth in the table.

"They are head-to-head games which -- if they are played in the right way for us -- the table can change again," said Cech, warning the Blues will never stop fighting to retain their title. "We've been doing so all the period we didn't get results."

Chelsea have also been ignoring their critics, according to the club's long-serving keeper.

"We don't have to listen to those people," said Cech, who insists Chelsea are not motivated to prove the naysayers wrong.

"Defending the title is motivation itself; you don't have to be reminded what we are playing for.

"One result goes your way and you're fifth; one result goes a bad way and you can be eighth. The same for the top of the table.

"The team who will have the most consistency will win the title race."

Irish Independent

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