Football Football

Lampard is not finished, says Villas-Boas


VALENCIA, Spain, September 27 – Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas reacted angrily to suggestions on Tuesday that veteran England midfielder Frank Lampard’s days at the club were numbered.

The Portuguese coach – who replaced Carlo Ancelotti at the end of last season – has only given Lampard one start in the last four matches and he wouldn’t say whether he would line-up against Valencia in Wednesday’s Champions League match.

However, he was adamant Lampard remained very much part of his plans.

“I think he (Lampard) is a magnificent player, an established international for England as well as Chelsea and I hope he will continue to be so,” said Villas-Boas.

“We have made changes to reinforce the squad and there is nothing new about that. The older players are still important for us but we have mixed them with new players coming through and established signings like (Juan) Mata.

“The team is playing well at the moment and competing in the league as well as Europe.

“I am doing what I see as my best for the team. My job is to see everyone motivated which is the case. You want me to say that they are finished but this is not the case.”

The match will have added importance for Mata who returns to the club which catapulted him to the top of the game.

The 23-year-old spent four seasons at the Mestalla where he developed into one of the top forwards in Europe and his performances in attack and on the wings led to Chelsea signing him up in August.

Chelsea lead Group E after a victory over Bayer Leverkusen but the pressure is on Valencia after a disappointing opening draw away to Genk.

“I want to win this game but I would like both teams to go through,” said Mata.

“I will be completely concentrated on my job but afterwards they (the Valencia players) will be my friends again and I will chat to them.”

Mata denied though that Villas Boas had sought him out to give inside information from the Valencia dressing room.

“I don’t think he needs to do so as he knows what he needs to about the team,” said Mata.

“Valencia are a strong side as they showed against Barcelona (in a 2-2 draw) last week and they will press forward and attack.

“Valencia will concentrate on their own game and a result for them will be very important.

“They are a complete side with a strong midfield and have players who can defend well while they are very dangerous going forward.”

Valencia’s tactics shouldn’t surprise Villas Boas as he is a close friend of coach Unai Emery and he is expecting an open match.

“It will be a hard fought contest and we will play with our usual attacking philosophy which we have had for several years now and since we have been fighting for trophies,” said Villas Boas.

“I don’t like to call ourselves favourites as it can lead to surprises.

“I speak regularly with Unai, he is one of the best Spanish coaches, and he is on an upward curve.

“His teams play quality football and I would like to see him coach one day in the Premiership as his coaching style suits the English game.

“Valencia will be at their best as they have started the league very strongly.

“I expect Unai to continue the same style that Valencia showed against Barcelona as they need to go out and win three points. It should be a fast paced game.”