(Reuters) – Chelsea’s final Champions League group game against Lille on Tuesday will be their biggest test of the season so far as they look to win at home for the first time and reach the knockout stage, manager Frank Lampard said on Monday.
Chelsea are third in Group H with eight points — the same as second-placed Valencia and two points behind leaders Ajax Amsterdam — having been unbeaten away, but the London side have picked up only one point in two European home games this season.
Lampard’s side can qualify for the last 16 with a win over Lille or a draw if Ajax beat Valencia.
“I’m well aware of (Chelsea’s home form) and I think it (qualifying) would be a good achievement,” Lampard told a news conference, accepting that it was his most significant game since he took charge at the club.
“I know there’s expectations we should get through a group but it was a tough group. And the slightly young feel to our team… The fact we lost our first game, there’s a few difficulties we’ve had.
“You don’t want to lose games or predict losing games but the way we are… this was never going to be a plain sailing, or ‘Invincible’. Teams and individuals need these tests, it comes with football so it’s a test for all of us.”
Lampard also said that Saturday’s 3-1 league defeat by Everton would not change his transfer window plans after the club had its transfer ban halved, paving the way to recruit new players in January.
“You have to be careful with being too reactionary and (the) ban lifted, defeat at Everton… it’s quite easy to come to the conclusion that we need to spend,” he added.
“Just as people at the start of the season were saying ‘we’ve got all these young boys, we don’t need any players’. (At) a club like Chelsea, it’s a balance.
“You have a strong squad which I believe we have, but you have to look at ‘can we strengthen?’ And there will be times… January or next summer, when we will, look at the opportunity to strengthen because we want to improve.”
Lampard was handed an injury boost with defender Antonio Rudiger, who has played only 45 minutes this season, back from injury but fellow centre back Fikayo Tomori and striker Olivier Giroud remain sidelined.
(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge)