By Ece Toksabay
ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Chelsea manager Frank Lampard said there was no individual that could replace winger Eden Hazard, urging the club to move on from the loss of one of their greatest players.
Hazard moved to Real Madrid in June with the Spanish club reported to have paid around 100 million euros ($111.86 million) for the Belgium international.
Chelsea lost their opening Premier League game with Lampard in charge 4-0 to Manchester United on Sunday and face Liverpool in the UEFA Super Cup on Wednesday.
Former England international Lampard says the team can collectively thrive despite losing Hazard, just as they did after the departure of other club favourites.
“I was a huge fan of Eden Hazard, as a Chelsea fan. I played with him. For me, clearly (he’s) one of the best in world football, over his time at Chelsea one of the most productive in the team generally and a leader,” Lampard told a news conference.
“You can’t replace him individually, because of the high level he is at now. But the good news and the positive news is that we have a group of players… that can step up. The answer is that as a team we have to find a way to carry on. Hazard, (John) Terry, (Didier) Drogba, move on.”
The Super Cup pits the Champions League winners, Liverpool, against the Europa League winners, Chelsea.
Lampard said he would continue to play the club’s young players despite criticism from former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho on Sunday.
The Chelsea manager started with a young side at Old Trafford, including Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham and Mourinho suggested he might have gone for a more experienced line-up for such a game.
“I pick the best team to win the game, regardless of age,” he said.
“If young players are showing what they can do in training and deserve their chance, for example Mason Mount deserves his chance completely on absolute merit as opposed to age, I will have no fears to play young players because it’s important for a club like Chelsea that we do that. But they need to deserve their chance.
“I was pretty proud of how we played on Sunday but we have learnt a few lessons which will serve us well in the future,” he added, before insisting the Super Cup was a game that meant a lot to the club.
“I am optimistic about tomorrow’s game and proud to be here managing the team. We know it’s going to be a big test but if we play to our maximum we can win the match.”
The former midfielder said German defender Antonio Rudiger and Brazilian winger Willian would not be ready to start against Liverpool while N’Golo Kante, who came off the bench at Old Trafford as he continues his road back to full fitness, would be evaluated.
“Kante was (a substitute) purely because he had an injury. I am very aware of how important he is. He picked up another small injury in the game, so we are assessing that. We have to make a decision this evening,” Lampard said.
“Willian and Rudiger are with us, Willian not far from fit, it’ll be tough to put him in an intense game like this. He is on the bench tomorrow. Similar with Rudiger.”
(Writing by Ece Toksabay; Editing by Christian Radnedge)