EPL

September 12 too early - Lampard wants Chelsea's Premier League start pushed back

By Sports Desk August 02, 2020

Frank Lampard has implored the Premier League to push back the start of the 2020-21 season for clubs still competing in Europe.

Lampard's Chelsea travel to face Bayern Munich in the last 16 of the Champions League on Saturday, albeit with limited hopes of reaching the quarter-finals as they face up to a 3-0 deficit from February's first leg.

Manchester City face Real Madrid 24 hours earlier at the Etihad Stadium, 2-1 to the good and with a more realistic tilt at playing in the final in Lisbon on August 23.

Manchester United and Wolves remain in the Europa League, which concludes on August 21 in Cologne.

Lampard, who will be without captain Cesar Azpilicueta and winger Christian Pulisic at Bayern after both sustained hamstring injuries during Saturday's 2-1 FA Cup final loss to Arsenal, believes the Premier League's stipulated start date of September 12 for next season is much too soon in that context.

"The players need to be given a break to play at the level of the quality product that the Premier League is," he said.

"Even in the worst-case scenario that we don’t go through against Bayern, the 12th feels too early for us to start playing again.

"The players need a break. That's why we're pulling two hamstrings and having players pulling out of the game before this.

"I would like to think the Premier League will look seriously at that and hopefully give us a fair start for next season.

"I think it's something we deserve for being a Premier League club competing in the Champions League."

Despite ending his first domestic campaign in charge of Chelsea on a dispiriting note, Lampard was keen to hail the season as a success on the whole, with the Blues securing Champions League qualification for next season despite being placed under a transfer embargo before the start of 2019-20.

"I'm delighted with the season and I've wanted to keep that within for the last week as I don't like to get too excited when there's a big game coming up," he said, despite accusing his team of "complacency" after failing to capitalise upon Pulisic's early opener at Wembley.

"But we have to reflect on a season going into it where people didn’t expect us to be in the top four. There were unknowns, the transfer ban, other clubs around us moving forward with recruitment when we couldn't.

"You can lose a final, we've lost a final and that's frustrating for us. But there's a bigger picture that we're working to and we've seen lots of good things.

"The players should be proud of how they've competed. The league position is a huge plus because, let's get it right, not many people gave us that chance at the start.

"Now we have to look to get better. [The FA Cup final] showed us there definitely is room to get better."

Any progress next term looks increasingly likely to take place without long-serving winger Willian.

The Brazil international is out of contract and has been linked with Arsenal, although Lampard is in the dark over his former team-mate's next move.

"I know the situation from the club's end, I've got a great relationship with Willian but I do not know what that decision is," he added.

"He's been brilliant for me this season but it is his choice and I respect his choice. He's been a great servant for Chelsea if he decides to move on."

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