LONDON: Chelsea manager Frank Lampard leapt to the defence of Ruben Loftus-Cheek (pix) on Friday after the midfielder was criticised for his poor performance in their season-opening win earlier this week.
Chelsea beat Brighton & Hove Albion 3-1 on Monday but Loftus-Cheek was singled out for criticism by television pundits due to his lack of pace, poor passing and for often losing possession, leading to his withdrawal after an hour.
However, Lampard said the criticism was unfair as the Englishman was still finding his feet after returning from an Achilles injury layoff last season and promised there was more to come from the 24-year-old.
“I know Ruben’s story probably second best to how he knows it,” Lampard told reporters ahead of Sunday’s home clash against Liverpool.
“Ruben had a terrible injury, an injury that he worked very hard to come back from over the course of last season. (He) trained brilliantly to get fit again for the start of the season.
“I think if there is harsh criticism... it’s certainly very harsh because to come back from an injury like he has, has been difficult for him and he’s put a lot of hours into it.”
Chelsea’s match against Liverpool has already had a war of words between the two managers in the media with respect to the two clubs’ transfer spending.
However, Lampard said he does not expect to rekindle the rivalry that had led to a touchline spat between himself and Jurgen Klopp during Chelsea’s 5-3 loss at Anfield in July.
“I’ve got a huge amount of respect for him as a manager, I always have,” Lampard said. “What he has done at Liverpool in the course of time has been incredible.
“There’s nothing in it for me. The competitive nature of the 90 minutes can always slightly boil over in different directions.”
Lampard confirmed fullback Ben Chilwell, defender Thiago Silva and wingers Christian Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech were not yet fully fit and would sit out the game at Stamford Bridge. – Reuters