Frank Lampard says Europe offers Chelsea a welcome break from internal strife

The Champions League will offer Frank Lampard’s Chelsea a chance to escape from “a place we don’t want to be” when they face Real Madrid at the Bernabeu on Wednesday.

The Chelsea interim manager was referring to the side’s position in the bottom half of the Premier League table after failing to score in any of their last three league games, with the Champions League offering the only hope of salvaging a bad season.

Europe has offered respite during difficult domestic seasons in the past, as was the case in 2012 when the Blues – led by interim manager Roberto Di Matteo – were crowned Champions League winners as they finished sixth in the league.

Di Matteo, who spent five seasons as a player at Chelsea, took over from Andre Villas-Boas when the Portuguese manager was sacked in February, and led the team to a stunning semi-final against Barcelona before beating Bayern Munich in the semifinals. the final.

Lampard was asked about the similarities between the club’s current situation and that season, when a former favorite from Stamford Bridge accepted the job as the team struggled to deliver an improbable European success.

He warned against letting history stop his side from taking seriously the threat posed by the reigning European champions.

“I think there are parallels in a simple sense,” Lampard said. “We are (both) former players. The year Robbie was here he was an assistant, he had a great awareness of the team. He got the job earlier in the year than me.

“He did an amazing job. I think my situation is different in practice. I have some knowledge of the team, but not close to all of them.

“I have to be careful in making this parallel, because obviously we have very difficult matches ahead of us. There is a lot of work to do, but we are very busy trying, if possible, to create our own little piece of history.”

Defeat to Wolves at Molineux on Saturday marked the first time since 2007 that Chelsea have gone three successive league games without scoring, following a goalless draw with Liverpool and a home defeat by Aston Villa.

Lampard has suggested the possibility of spearheading a challenge for the club’s third European title was a deciding factor in his acceptance of the job as the hierarchy look for a permanent replacement for Graham Potter, who despite overseeing the side’s fall into the league enjoyed his finest moments at Stamford Bridge as he led the side to the round of 16.

Victory against Borussia Dortmund in the previous round was arguably Chelsea’s best performance of 2023 and Lampard acknowledged that the Champions League provides a welcome distraction from internal strife.

Chelsea v Borussia Dortmund – UEFA Champions League – Round of 16 – Second leg – Stamford Bridge

The win against Borussia Dortmund in the previous round was arguably Chelsea’s best performance of 2023 (PA)

“If you isolate this year (it looks like this), he said. “I saw it from the outside. There have been challenges this year.

“But the Premier League is also one of the biggest challenges in world football. These challenges have obviously led us to a place where we don’t want to be.

“The Champions League sometimes offers you a little escape from all that: a different pace of play, knockout football. These things can contribute to several hits in the same season.

“When you get to this stage of the competition, playing against teams of the level of Real Madrid, these kinds of comparisons are rather pointless. It’s about what’s in front of you.

Chelsea will play at the Bernabeu for the third consecutive season after the last two seasons have both taken them to the Spanish capital in the round of 16.

Real Madrid-Chelsea – UEFA Champions League – Semi-final – First leg – Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano

Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic (centre) scored as Chelsea faced Real Madrid in the semi-final first leg at the Bernabeu in 2021 (Isabel Infantes/PA)

They knocked out Madrid in the semi-finals in 2021 before going on to win the tournament under former manager Thomas Tuchel, but lost a chance to retain the title when Carlo Ancelotti’s side retaliated in last season’s quarter-finals.

“Every new year in football brings a new story,” said Lampard. “The year before (in 2021) Chelsea arrived and here they won the Champions League in the knockout stage. Real Madrid produced an incredible game last year that changed in the final moments.

“After seeing Real Madrid and having a relationship with Carlo Ancelotti, which was incredible when he was here, the players have to understand that it’s a special arena and a special football club, and anything can happen.

“Some things you can’t control. My focus won’t be on last year, it will be on what we can do now as a team.”

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