Frank Lampard believes Chelsea must translate their away form into home success if they are to challenge at the head of the Premier League table.
Lampard and his teammates provided an impressive response to their League Cup semi-final, first-leg loss to Swansea at Stamford Bridge by beating Stoke 4-0 in the Premier League at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday.
European champions Chelsea are back on home ground at Stamford Bridge today, when struggling Southampton visit in a game that could see Rafael Benitez’s side close the gap on top two Manchester United and Manchester City.
The match marks Chelsea’s game in hand on the Manchester duo, and should they win, the west London club will move to within four points of City, with United a further seven points clear.
In recent seasons, victory would almost be seen as a formality, but successive home reverses — Chelsea lost to bottom club Queens Park Rangers before the Swansea defeat — together with continuing antagonism shown by home supporters to interim manager Benitez mean a home win cannot be guaranteed.
However, Lampard, who became the club’s second highest scorer after netting against Stoke, is adamant the side must get back on track at the Bridge.
The 34-year-old midfielder, whose future is the subject of intense speculation amid reports he will not be offered a new contract when his current deal expires at the end of the season, said: “At the minute, we are a better away team obviously, but that has to change starting with Southampton. We have to start quicker, come out and get the passing and moving like we did at Stoke. The first 20 minutes, they put us under pressure, but once we moved the ball, we settled into the game and were different class. We have been counter-attacking well away from home, but I just think it’s a case of sustaining things when we’re attacking. We have to do it now.”
John Terry made his return to the team as a second half substitute at Stoke and should start, while Benitez must decide between Demba Ba and Fernando Torres for the striker role.
David Luiz should continue in midfield and the Brazilian believes Benitez deserved more credit for his recent efforts.
“Sometimes when you play at home, the other team put everyone back and you don’t have a lot of space to play,” Luiz said. “Then you can make mistakes because you just want to score. We need to work hard to improve. I think Rafa did a great job this week, he showed everybody what we had to do to win this game.”
Southampton were given a major lift in their battle against relegation with victory at fellow strugglers Aston Villa that came from a disputed penalty.
Nigel Adkins’s side have now moved three places and two points clear of the relegation zone and a positive result at Chelsea will reinforce the view they are a club on the up.
However, they are likely to be without Luke Shaw, the highly rated teenage left-back who has caught the attention of Chelsea, after the boyhood Blues fan suffered a gashed knee at Villa Park.
“We’ve got an excellent medical department and we will see what the diagnosis is,” Adkins said. “We’d like to think it’s nothing more than a very heavy challenge, but we will wait and see. It’s quite a big blow he took to his knee.”
Rickie Lambert’s penalty against Villa saw him score his ninth league goal of the season, but the striker believes there is room for improvement.