VALENCIA (Reuters) – Chelsea manager Frank Lampard said on Tuesday that his side’s number one priority in the crucial Champions League clash with Valencia was to avoid defeat.
Valencia, Chelsea and leaders Ajax Amsterdam are all locked on seven points after four games in Group H, and the match at Mestalla looks critical to both sides’ chances of progressing to the last 16.
Valencia pulled off a surprise 1-0 win when the two sides met at Stamford Bridge in September, but Chelsea have been on an outstanding run since, winning nine games out of 13 in all competitions.
“It’s a ‘must not lose’ game because of the position we’re in,” Lampard told a news conference on Tuesday.
“We lost ground in the first game against Valencia. We’ve made up a lot of that ground but I always felt it would be a tight group. We don’t want to lose the game.
“It doesn’t mean we’re out if we lose but it puts us in a very difficult position.”
Lampard added that his side were unfortunate to lose against Valencia at Stamford Bridge but he expected another difficult game against the Spaniards, who have had a stop-start campaign and are 10th in La Liga.
“I felt we were the better team but we conceded a goal. My major feeling after the first game was the lesson will always be, whether you’re 18 or 32 in the Champions League, if you sleep for one moment you can lose a game,” he said.
“We’ll need to take every bit of concentration, every bit of focus into this game because the rules always remain the same.
“Particularly when you travel in the Champions League and particularly when you come to a stadium like this.”
Valencia are under greater pressure to win the game than Chelsea, who face group minnows Lille at home in their final game next month while the Spaniards have to travel to Ajax, last season’s semi-finalists.
Coach Albert Celades, however, dismissed suggestions this was a do-or-die game for his side, who have not reached the knockout stages of Europe’s top competition since the 2012/13 season.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to try and reach the next round. But even if we don’t win we’ll still have a good chance,” he said.
“But we will go out to win the game first of all and then see what happens next.”
(Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Ian Chadband)