LAMPS STILL A LEAD­ING LIGHT FOR VIL­LAS-BOAS

VA­LEN­CIA v CHELSEA Cham­pi­ons League – Tonight, ITV1, 7.45pm

Midweek Sport - - TV GUIDE -

AN­DRE VIL­LAS-BOAS last night hit out at Frank Lam­pard’s knock­ers, in­sist­ing the mid­fielder re­mained one of the club’s most im­por­tant play­ers.

The Chelsea boss said he is fed up of an­swer­ing ques­tions about Lam­pard’s fu­ture, which has been the sub­ject of spec­u­la­tion af­ter he started three of the last four games on the bench and was hauled off in the other.

That has pro­vided fur­ther am­mu­ni­tion to those who claim Lam­pard’s pow­ers are on the wane af­ter the 33-year-old lost his place in the Eng­land side ear­lier this month.

The man who once set a Premier League record for con­sec­u­tive out­field ap­pear­ances has been rested lately, ei­ther as part of a squad ro­ta­tion pol­icy or to pre­serve his age­ing legs for the big­ger games.

That should mean he starts tonight’s Group E clash but, if he doesn’t, spec­u­la­tion about his fu­ture will reach fever pitch.

Vil­las-Boas re­fused to con­firm if Lam­pard would play but in­sisted that con­clu­sion would be to­tally un­jus­ti­fied.

Fuming

He branded most ques­tions about Lamps as “neg­a­tive”, adding: “I think I’ve an­swered that ques­tion enough.

“We all see things in the dress­ing room as team ob­jec­tives and col­lec­tive ob­jec­tives, noth­ing else.”

Vil­las-Boas was left fuming af­ter Chelsea’s prepa­ra­tions were thrown into chaos.

The Blues were forced to change planes and touched down four hours late af­ter leav­ing Lon­don.

That meant Vil­lasBoas was forced to re­or­gan­ise his train­ing sched­ules be­fore the sec­ond group game.

Satur­day’s win over Swansea con­firmed the Blues are bang in form go­ing into their Euro- pean clash and Lamps reck­ons Juan Mata has trans­formed them this sea­son.

Mata faces his former club just weeks af­ter he left for Stam­ford Bridge in a £24.5 mil­lion move.

The ar­rival of the play­maker has al­ready helped fel­low Spa­niard Fer­nando Tor­res to re­cover his scor­ing form with back-to-back strikes.

And Lamps be­lieves Mata has made the Blues good to watch again – even if it means his own place is now more un­der threat.

He said: “It is nice to in­tro­duce a dif­fer­ent sort of player, some­one who can flit into the hole and then be out wide again.

“It’s a great thing for the fans to see and a great op­tion if the game is a bit stale. It might cre­ate a bit of magic.”

HOT TOPIC: Frank Lam­pard

GIVE IT A REST: Vil­las-Boas

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