EPL

Lampard accepts Chelsea 'not ready to compete' for Premier League title

By Sports Desk January 20, 2021

Under-pressure Chelsea head coach Frank Lampard accepts the Blues are "not ready to compete" for the Premier League title following another defeat.

Chelsea lost 2-0 at Leicester City on Tuesday, meaning their only win in their previous five Premier League games was against a Fulham side languishing in the relegation zone.

Victory for Leicester put Brendan Rodgers' side top of the table at least until Manchester United go to Fulham on Wednesday, while Chelsea will be 11 points adrift of the summit if the Red Devils win.

It was not so long ago that Chelsea were being dubbed favourites for the Premier League title by Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, with Lampard's side top of the pile as recently as early December.

Since beating Leeds United to go top on December 5, Chelsea have taken just seven points from a possible 24 and Tuesday's defeat meant only Newcastle United (52) have conceded more away goals in the Premier League than them (50) since the start of last season.

Reports began to emerge a few weeks ago about Lampard's position being in doubt, and it is unlikely he has done himself any favours by essentially conceding defeat in the title race.

"I don't think this is the first time I've been asked this, been asked this a few times in the last few weeks – after 16 unbeaten we lost two on the bounce and I was starting to be asked these questions, and I understand it," Lampard told reporters.

"It's the expectations of this club. Whether I think it's right or wrong… As I said pre-match, we are not in the position of a Chelsea that we were in periods when we were winning leagues.

"I took this job knowing that there will be difficult times because it's not a club ready to compete. We had a transfer ban, we had young players. Now we have new players and we can see that the new players, the younger players are striving for form, to be settled into this team.

"While everything was rosy in early-to-mid December, it's not so rosy now. We're not the only team to suffer that situation and I'm not the only manager to be put under this sort of pressure.

"The lucky thing for me is I'm good at handling the pressure. I don't like it, I want to win games, I want everyone to be talking about how we are moving towards the top of the table like we were a month ago, but the reality is, for me, I could sense these periods were coming and that's all I have to concern myself with, how to deal with them and get us out of it."

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    Lionel Messi will walk out the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium tunnel on Saturday with the expectations of millions on his shoulders when Argentina face Australia in the last 16 of Qatar 2022.

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    Now aged 35, Messi has already accepted this will be his final chance to lift the most famous trophy of them all, a little over a year on from helping La Albiceleste end their 28-year wait for a major title with Copa America success.

    Ahead of the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner's milestone match, Stats Perform looks at the numbers behind his previous 999 appearances for club and country – and why the next two weeks could yet define his career.

    Barca Breakthrough

    October 16, 2004. It would not be hyperbolic to suggest this was a day that football as we know it changed, with a 17-year-old Messi replacing Deco from the substitutes' bench in Barcelona's 1-0 win over city rivals Espanyol.

    In a sign of the mini maestro's longevity, he has since played alongside two players born after his Barcelona debut – Warren Zaire-Emery and El Chadaille Bitshiabu, born in March 2006 and May 2005 respectively.

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    Unsurprisingly, the majority of Messi's career appearances came during his 17 seasons at Camp Nou. He featured 778 times for Barca, scoring a staggering 672 goals and assisting 265, which amounts to 937 direct-goal involvements.

    He made more appearances against Real Madrid than any other opponent, playing 47 times against Barca's fiercest rivals.

    Good times under Guardiola

    Barcelona's inability to offer Messi a new contract due to their dire financial situation allowed PSG to pounce. After an underwhelming first campaign in Paris, the superstar forward has found his form this term.

    Messi has featured 53 times for the Parisians to date and has scored (23) and assisted (28) a combined 51 goals – just short of one goal involvement every match on average.

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