Frank Lampard believes our experience of coming up against Steaua Bucharest as recently as last March can only serve as a positive when we renew acquaintances with the Romanian side in the National Arena tomorrow.
The Blues take on Steaua looking to record our first win in this season’s Champions League following the disappointment of our 2-1 home defeat to Basel a fortnight ago.
We faced tomorrow’s opponents over two legs en route to winning last season’s Europa League, eventually progressing having been beaten 1-0 away in the first leg. On that occasion, our first-half performance left us chasing the game, and Lampard stressed the importance of learning from previous mistakes.
‘We’re a very experienced squad, and you can never underestimate any side in the Champions League,’ he said. ‘In the first match we didn’t perform well and we lost the game, that’s what happens. Because we’re experienced, if you think about it we’ve now got five games to go, so we aim to put that right.
‘In terms of tomorrow, we certainly don’t expect an easy game. We’re lucky we played Steaua Bucharest last season because it makes us fully aware of the good team that they are and particularly the atmosphere we’re going to get tomorrow.
‘Last year, in the first half we were slow and we weren’t ready and we lost the game in the first half. Considering the position we’re in now, and we need a result tomorrow, we have to start the game at a top level.’
Involved in the competition for the 11th successive season, there are few players across Europe who can match Lampard’s experience in the Champions League. As a player who, in the absence of John Terry, skippered us to success in 2012, he acknowledged the significance of preparing for matches in the right way, regardless of the opposition.
‘They’re a team with a lot of history and strong support, that’s pretty normal in the Champions League but they’re a very good side,’ he explained.
‘I think our group is quite tough, it’s a group where people might have looked at in the beginning and thought it was relatively easy for Chelsea, but when you have a group where there’s a good level and no one team stands out as being very weak you have to prepare for all the games professionally.
‘We’re well aware Steaua are a strong team and if we just turn up and think we’re Chelsea, we’re going to come and play and win the game easily, it’s not going to happen, but that’s down to us.’
Jose Mourinho’s side have responded well to successive defeats against Everton and Basel, bouncing back with victories against Fulham and Swindon Town, while showing tremendous character to come from behind to earn a point at White Hart Lane on Saturday.
The signs are encouraging, and with Mourinho at the helm, and a host of quality, young players at his disposal, Lampard predicts a bright future.
‘I think the manager has said it can take two to three months to develop, for players to follow a new manager’s idea,’ he explained. ‘If you look at us in the league we’re in a good position. We obviously have to win games in the Champions League having lost one but that can happen any time.
‘I really believe in the squad we have and the young players we’ve got, and it’s important now that we take the manager’s ideas on board. I have a lot of respect for him and I know he’s a winner, he’s shown that not just at Chelsea, and I think we need to bring that all together.
‘It might be a matter of time in certain areas but I certainly believe in the squad that we can do big things. It’s easy to talk about it but we actually have to do it, starting from now onwards.’