Frank Lampard would not go as far as saying this is a make-or-break week for his team but the Chelsea head coach has still been driving home the importance of the next three games at Stamford Bridge.
These eight days have the potential to define this campaign. Three wins would leave them on the cusp of sealing a place in next season’s Champions League and an upper hand before the daunting prospect of visiting Bayern Munich for the second leg of their round of 16 tie in mid-March.
Three defeats would not only make their quest for top four (or five) that much more difficult but also hand momentum to their two most likely rivals for that spot; it is also hard to see them overcoming a first-leg loss to Bayern, no matter how narrow.
“I don’t mind the reality of it, I like the reality of it,” Lampard said of the next three games. “I think the players should know it, should know that this is what it is all about if you want to make the top four.
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“We are in a good position now and we can affect it seriously over the next seven days and that is not bad to have that in your mind. We should be on edge, training should be on edge like it has been, where it is tense and people are being competitive and we have to take that into the game against Manchester United.”
Manchester City’s two-year Champions League ban, pending an appeal, does provide some breathing space in the Premier League but with Tottenham Hotspur suddenly building momentum and a chasing pack of Manchester United, Sheffield United, Wolves, Everton and, yes, even Arsenal and Burnley all within seven points there is a sense of the Blues being considered as prey.
While Lampard said on Friday that he expects his young players – singling out Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham – to up their games further between now and the summer, part of Lampard’s job at the minute is also to keep…