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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    Benzema is Madrid's top-scorer this season with 17 goals in all competitions but has missed their past three games due to an unspecified knock.

    The France international's finishing touch was missed in Monday's 1-1 draw with Real Sociedad, which leaves third-placed Los Blancos five points behind Atletico having played a game more.

    "We hope he can be with us, but we have to wait and see because he still hasn't trained with the team," Zidane said.

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    In Benzema's absence, Madrid have collected two 1-0 wins plus the 1-1 draw with Sociedad, so his attacking prowess has been missed.

    Highly rated 20-year-old Brazilian winger Vinicius Junior came off the bench to rescue a point for Zidane's side against Sociedad, scoring in the 89th minute for his third league goal of the campaign.

    "I’m pleased he got the goal," Zidane said.

    "We picked up a point and now we have to move on. It's the result of his hard work and effort. That's what we all have to keep doing."

    Zidane remains bullish about Madrid's title hopes, with Atletico having stumbled in recent matches, collecting eight points from a possible 15, while they were also beaten by Chelsea in the Champions League last week.

    Barcelona moved past Madrid into second with their 2-0 win at Sevilla on Saturday.

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