Frank Lampard: ‘We now have it in our own hands’

Chelsea will secure Champions League place if they draw with Wolves at Stamford Bridge

Frank Lampard backed Chelsea to handle the pressure of trying to qualify for the Champions League on the final day of the season and refused to criticise Kepa Arrizabalaga after the goalkeeper struggled against Liverpool, who marked lifting the Premier League trophy with a thrilling 5-3 victory at Anfield.

While Manchester United’s draw with West Ham earlier in the evening meant Lampard’s side went into their game against the champions knowing a point would seal a place in the top four, they were unable to contain ­Liverpool’s attack and fell short despite a spirited comeback in the second half.

Jürgen Klopp’s side led 3-1 at half-time and the focus homed in on Chelsea’s defending, with ­Arrizabalaga under the spotlight after conceding a long-range strike from Naby Keïta and a free-kick from Trent Alexander-Arnold.

However Chelsea, who slipped into fourth place on goal difference after United came from behind to rescue a point against West Ham, will secure Champions League football if they draw with Wolves at Stamford Bridge on Sunday. Leicester, who are a point below Chelsea, host United on the final day and Lampard urged his team to seize the moment.

“They have to embrace that and take it on,” Chelsea’s manager said. “We’ve got a mixture of youth and sometimes that youthfulness can help but we also have players who have been in situations like this before. It comes with the territory of playing for a top club. We should have a feeling of achievement to this point. Not many people expected us to be in the top-four race. We now have it in our own hands.

"We're at the Bridge. We have a really strong opponent coming in Wolves. It's up to us. I've got belief in the players. I've seen a lot in the last two games, particularly against Manchester United and with Liverpool tonight, of what we are about. There's been spirit and character in those two performances. We have to carry on with one more in the league."

Lampard wants Chelsea, who face Arsenal in the FA Cup final on August 1st, to remain calm against Wolves. “There will be a lot going on on Sunday,” he said. “What’s important for the players is they absolutely focus on themselves because it is in our own hands. We can’t affect what’s going on elsewhere and we have to try and get over the line.”

While Arrizabalaga has had a shaky season, Lampard refused to single out the Spaniard for a poor defensive display. “I wouldn’t talk about individuals in a game where we have conceded those goals,” Lampard said. “Some were real quality Liverpool finishes, particularly the free-kick. There were some collective and individual errors for them but what we did do was contribute towards a really good game.”

Chelsea have conceded 54 goals in 37 league games, the most in the top half. “I don’t want to dwell on how many goals we have conceded now,” Lampard said. “We have got a game to go and we want to win that game to get into the top four.”

It was a night to remember for ­Liverpool, who were handed the trophy by Kenny Dalglish after ending their 30-year wait for the league title, but the celebratory mood was diluted by some supporters defying pleas to maintain social distancing by ­gathering outside Anfield.

Fireworks were let off outside the ground on several occasions during the game and Merseyside police put in place a 24-hour dispersal order at 9.30pm as they anticipated large crowds gathering in Liverpool. After a number of incidents at the Pier Head and in the city centre when Liverpool were crowned champions on the night of June 25th, a dispersal zone was ­introduced in parts of the city.

Klopp, who led the celebrations in an empty stadium, urged supporters to stay away. “If you don’t see that we do it for you I can’t help you,” Liverpool’s manager said. “You made us happy, we all should celebrate at home. Prepare for a party and when this fucking virus has gone we will have a party.” - Guardian