London: Frank Lampard admits his first match as Chelsea manager at Stamford Bridge will be a proud occasion, but only a win against Leicester will make Sunday’s homecoming a truly memorable occasion.
After successive defeats in his opening two competitive games in charge, Blues legend Lampard is desperate to get his reign up and running with three points this weekend.
The 41-year-old, Chelsea’s record goal-scorer, is certain to get a hero’s welcome from his adoring fans despite the frustrating start to the season.
A crushing 4-0 defeat at Manchester United in Chelsea’s opening game of the Premier League campaign was followed by Wednesday’s penalty shoot-out loss to Liverpool in the European Super Cup in Istanbul.
Both performances featured moments of promise for Chelsea, but Lampard knows he will be judged on results, making it essential to avoid a third consecutive defeat when Leicester visit west London.
“I’m proud to manage this club. I’ve been back a few times and had great support,” Lampard said.
“It will be an emotional, special day for me but the important thing is trying to get the three points and that’s what I am really worried about.”
“There were good parts of the Man United game that got lost in the result but not lost on me — against Liverpool, we played one of the top teams in the world and really matched them.”
Lampard has only one season of managerial experience in the second tier with Derby, but his strong connection with Chelsea persuaded owner Roman Abramovich to hire him in the close-season.
It was a bold move and Lampard is enduring a baptism of fire after Chelsea sold star playmaker Eden Hazard while operating under a transfer ban that has forced him to turn to the club’s youngsters.
– ‘Big challenge’ –
Lampard is still getting settled into the job and he acknowledges Leicester, who opened the season with a goalless draw against Wolves, will pose a stern test to his hopes of a maiden win.
“It’s a big game for us in front of our home fans for the first time this season,” Lampard said ahead of the game against Brendan Rodgers’ team.
“Leicester are very much a team that should be respected for the players and manager they have got and how they have performed in recent years.
“I know Brendan well. He’s a fantastic manager. He’s got a great group of players there. They will be well coached so we are going to have a big challenge.
“Our mindset is important. It’s been a strange two games. We can’t think the strong performance on Wednesday will replicate itself just because we walk out on that pitch. It’s important we tackle it head on with a real focus.”
Lampard was forced to condemn racist abuse of Tammy Abraham on social media after the young Chelsea striker missed the decisive penalty against Liverpool.
It remains to be seen if Abraham returns to the team after he started the United game and was then a substitute against Liverpool as Olivier Giroud came in.
Lampard also has German defender Antonio Rudiger and Brazilian winger Willian back in contention after the pair returned to training.
Rodgers, who worked in Chelsea’s backroom staff during Lampard’s playing career, believes the inexperienced manager will prove a success in the long-term.
“In the games I have seen, Chelsea have played with a good tempo and intensity,” Rodgers said.
“Frank understands the importance of giving those young players a chance, but he also knows he has to win matches and get results, and I believe he will do well there. (PTI)