Lampard returns to bench as Chelsea try to stop the rot

Sat, Dec 8, 2012, 00:00

Frank Lampard will be among Chelsea’s substitutes at Sunderland today after an absence of almost seven weeks as Rafael Benitez attempts to ensure his side do not fall further behind in the Premier League title race before departing for the Fifa Club World Cup in Japan.

The veteran England midfielder damaged his calf in the Champions League defeat to Shakhtar Donetsk in Ukraine back in October and has watched as the holders departed that competition at the group stage shedding the manager, Roberto Di Matteo, en route

Chelsea travel to Wearside without a win in seven league games, their worst sequence since 1995, and 10 points behind Manchester United in the table. Indeed, should they succumb at the Stadium of Light, they could potentially be 19 points adrift of the leaders by the time they next compete in the Premier League.

The interim first-team manager will concentrate on Chelsea achieving a first league win since October20th, with Lampard’s return offering some reassurance, even if the 34-year-old is short of match fitness and will only start on the bench. “It is positive that he is back because we need character, we need numbers, and Frank is an experienced player,” Benitez said.

“We’ve got a good team and a strong squad, but we needed players with more experience, and he could make a difference. He adds something, finding players between the lines, getting into the box and scoring goals. He cannot be the box-to-box player he was 10 years ago, but he’ll be important for us when we’re in possession with the players we have up front, people with good movement and ability. You need someone to link with them, and he can play that role.

“When I first came here I had a conversation with Frank and [John] Terry . . . We spoke about the rivalry between Chelsea and Liverpool when I was there, about how we work and the mentality needed. I have a winning mentality. They had, back then, and still have a winning mentality. They are both important players with big characters.”

Terry’s absence will be prolonged until after the team returns from Japan, with the centre-half having suffered minor inflammation around the knee ligaments. He will not travel to the Club World Cup but will instead continue his own rehabilitation at Cobham in the hope he might play some part in the Capital One Cup quarter-final at Leeds on December 19th.

Daniel Sturridge, who has been suffering from a hamstring complaint, will also be absent today but may join the team in Yokohama next week if necessary.

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