Lampard return a 'risky gamble' but Benitez backs Chelsea for turnaround

By Sports Desk April 18, 2023

Frank Lampard's temporary reign at Chelsea is a "risky gamble" but could well pay off for the beleaguered club, believes Rafael Benitez.

Former Blues head coach Lampard returned to his former post on a short-term basis on April 6 following Graham Potter's dismissal.

Yet with three losses from his first three games in charge, it has been far from a glowing reunion for the club's record goalscorer.

Benitez, who led Chelsea as interim boss himself for the bulk of the 2012-13 season, feels there is still time for Lampard to effect a turnaround.

"It was a surprise for everyone [re-appointing Lampard], but he has been there for many years and knows the players," Benitez told the Telegraph.

"It's a risky gamble that we will only be able to assess, as almost always, at the end. He has a great squad at his disposal, he knows the Premier League.

"He knows the players, the staff and the fans will give him more leeway than another manager because he was a great player there. He can give them more peace of mind in the short term."

Another of Benitez's former clubs, Real Madrid, stood in Chelsea's way on Tuesday, with the Blues looking to overturn a 2-0 deficit in their Champions League quarter-final.

Lampard was Benitez's captain for the 2013 Europa League final victory over Benfica, the lone honour of a season that saw the Spanish coach experience a thorny relationship with the club's fanbase.

The former Liverpool boss acknowledges his time on Merseyside likely coloured a negative impression of him among Chelsea fans, but he retains fond memories from his spell at Stamford Bridge, steering Chelsea to third place in the Premier League and semi-finals of the EFL Cup and FA Cup.

"It's not lost on anyone that [Roman] Abramovich's Chelsea were the strongest team in the Premier League when I arrived at Liverpool," Benitez said. "We competed with them and beat them in the Champions League several times, those games had a lot of tension, and it's not easy for a fan to forget the emotional part.

"Fortunately, we [at Chelsea] more than fulfilled our objectives of qualifying directly for the Champions League and, on top of that we also won the Europa League. I think everyone now sees it as a success."

If Chelsea were looking for encouragement ahead of the Madrid second leg, it was provided by recent history.

The Blues have progressed from five of their last seven Champions League ties when losing the first leg away from home, doing so in each of the last two when losing by two clear goals: against Napoli in 2011-12 and Paris Saint-Germain in 2013-14.

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