The Blues make the short trip across London to play away at Crystal Palace this afternoon, our first competitive game at Selhurst Park since 2004. Frank Lampard believes the fact Tony Pulis’s side are scrapping to preserve their Premier League status ensures we will approach the game well aware that only a strong collective display will suffice.
Jose Mourinho will be hoping his side can reproduce the type of form we’ve shown in our three previous London derbies this month, having seen them take maximum points from matches against Fulham, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal, scoring 13 goals in the process and conceding just one, a consolation strike in the 3-1 win at Craven Cottage.
The emphatic nature of last week’s 6-0 demolition of the Gunners saw the Blues win the Performance of the Week Award. Lampard, who was an unused substitute, was delighted with the way we secured the victory, and having suffered disappointment at Aston Villa a week previously, feels the players responded in the perfect manner.
‘It was a very important result against one of our main rivals and, with Arsenal being right up there, it was good for us to score a lot of goals,’ he tells the official Chelsea website.
‘It was a great result for the fans and great for the confidence of the whole team. We’re at a critical part of the season now where you can’t afford to lose games, and you certainly can’t afford to lose two on the trot, so it was very important.’
Lampard played the full 90 minutes on our last visit to Selhurst Park, a 2-0 win just three games into Mourinho’s first spell at the club, secured courtesy of Didier Drogba’s maiden Chelsea goal and a fine strike by Portuguese midfielder Tiago [pictured below].
‘I remember Didier scoring a header in that game, but it’s always a tough place to go to and try to get a result, I remember that even from my West Ham days,’ he recalls.
‘It’s an old-fashioned ground, the pitch and the dressing rooms aren’t always the best; that’s not an excuse, that’s just the way it is.
‘Their fans are brilliant, they were great at Stamford Bridge earlier in the season, I’m sure we’ll take a big number of supporters so the atmosphere will be good and it’s another important game for us.’
Our hosts go into the game just one place and three points above the relegation zone and, having picked up just two points from their last five matches, are as much in need of a victory as the Blues, albeit for different reasons.
The fact they have managed to haul themselves out of the bottom three following a poor start to the campaign, however, owes much to the work carried out by Tony Pulis since he replaced Ian Holloway back in November.
‘I think he’s done brilliantly since he took over,’ says Lampard. ‘A lot of people wrote them off earlier in the season when they were losing week in, week out, but Tony’s come in, brought his own style to the club and got results.
‘Fair play to him for the job he’s done, they’re a very hard side to beat now and they’ve got themselves into a position where they can get themselves out of trouble.’
With four teams still capable of winning the Premier League, the matches between those sides are ultimately expected to shape the outcome of the tightest title race in many years. Fixtures such as today’s, though, take on just as much significance, according to Lampard.
‘There’s a toughness to these type of games at this part of the season,’ says the club’s all-time highest goalscorer.
‘Of course, you’re aware of the importance of the games against the likes of Liverpool and Man City but it’s tough against the teams who are down there fighting and will do anything to stay up. That can often bring out the best in a lot of sides.’
Aside from the 6-0 scoreline, one of the most positive aspects of last week’s game against Arsenal was the performances of both Andre Schurrle and Mohamed Salah. The German, who came into the side for the suspended Willian, teed up the opening goal for Samuel Eto’o before extending our lead three minutes later, while Salah came off the bench to score his first goal for the club.
Lampard believes that, at a critical stage of the season, with the side chasing glory on two fronts, the benefit of possessing a big squad, with quality players in each position, really makes a difference.
‘Yes it does, you need players to come in and perform as well, if not better, than the players they’re coming in for, and I think we’ve done that throughout the season, which is great to see,’ says the 35-year-old.
‘It’s been a bit of a settling in period for Salah, particularly having joined midway through the season, that’s not easy. It’s a different style of football and a different physical side of the game, but you can see the maturity he’s shown and we’ve all seen that in training.
‘It’s been the same with Andre as well over the season, he scored a hat-trick at Fulham and you can see with his performances he’s starting to feel really at home.’
You can listen to full live commentary of today’s game from 3pm on Chelsea TV.