Chelsea head coach Frank Lampard wants his players to embrace the pressure of trying to qualify for the Champions League in their Premier League battle with in-form Manchester United.
Lampard’s Chelsea moved back into the top four with a 3-0 win over Watford after United had briefly leapfrogged them following a 5-2 thrashing of Bournemouth earlier on Saturday.
Chelsea are fourth in the table, two points clear of United with five matches remaining in the Premier League, as the top-four race goes down to the wire.
And Lampard told his players to ignore United, who have gone 16 matches without defeat across all competitions, after bouncing back from Wednesday’s shock 3-2 loss at West Ham.
“I think every game is going to be pressure now,” Lampard told reporters. “West Ham was pressure because we knew we could go third. It’s a different kind of pressure but it’s still the same in how you focus on the game and job at hand.
“You cannot get too caught up in what everyone does at the moment. We did that tonight. There was no nonsense. The mentality was right. We started brightly and we carried on and got the small details of the game right at both ends of the pitch, which I was happy with.”
“It is not a comparison to get too caught up in,” Lampard said. “They are a very good team; we know that. The individuals that they have, the squad, the coaches that they have. We can only respect that.
“I watched their game early and with the individual quality when you look across their frontline you see two players on 20 goals and Mason Greenwood doing what he is doing scoring regularly.
“[Bruno] Fernandes and [Paul] Pogba in midfield, the signing of Harry Maguire. They are a really strong outfit. We know that and the fact we are two points ahead we have to be happy about.
“We know it is going to be contested right until the end of the season with the form that they are in. With respect to Manchester United and the teams around us, we have to focus on ourselves and try to keep picking up results. That will be the main importance to us.”
Olivier Giroud, Willian and Ross Barkley were on target for Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
However, midfielder N’Golo Kante suffered a hamstring injury in the win after he was withdrawn with 12 minutes remaining in London.
Lampard, who insisted Jorginho remains part of his plans despite finding himself out of the line-up, added: “N’Golo has got a small hamstring [injury] which we’ll have to scan tomorrow [Sunday] and see how bad it is.
“We hope it’s small, that’s what I’ve been told so far. After the scan we’ll know but I’m guessing it’ll be a problem for [Crystal] Palace on Tuesday.”
Lampard also heaped praise on goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, who has been linked with a return to LaLiga, after the former Athletic Bilbao star produced an agile save to thwart Danny Welbeck.
“I am pleased for him and the back four in front of him as well because I thought we defended pretty well when we needed to,” Lampard said. “But the moment when we slipped and they got in; he made a really good save.
“That’s what you want from your goalkeeper, you want them to make those saves and stay alert. It will be good for his confidence along with the clean sheet as well.”