Frank Lampard has made his return to Chelsea as the interim manager until the end of the season, and he has already faced a tough decision regarding one of his key players.
N’Golo Kante, who was instrumental in Chelsea’s Champions League triumph under Thomas Tuchel last season, was left out of Lampard’s first squad for the Premier League game against Wolves on Saturday.
The France international has recently recovered from a groin injury that sidelined him for most of the season, and he featured in both games under Graham Potter and Bruno Saltor, who took charge of Chelsea briefly after Tuchel’s departure.
However, Lampard has revealed that he decided to rest Kante for the Wolves game as a precautionary measure, with an eye on the upcoming Champions League quarter-final against Real Madrid on Wednesday.
“There’s no worries with N’Golo,” Lampard told BBC. “We’re fine with him, we’re managing him through. He’s been out for a long time. We have a way of managing him. I was aware of that from when I was at the club before.”
Lampard added that he is looking forward to working with Kante again, as he praised his quality and professionalism.
“He’s an incredible player, one of the best in the world in his position,” Lampard said. “He’s also a great person to have around the dressing room. He always gives his best and he’s very humble. He’s one of those players that you can always rely on.”
Lampard will hope that Kante will be fit and ready for the crucial clash against Real Madrid, who are the reigning champions of Europe and have won the trophy 13 times in their history.
Chelsea will travel to Spain for the first leg on Wednesday, before hosting Zinedine Zidane’s side at Stamford Bridge on April 19.
Lampard, who won the Champions League as a player with Chelsea in 2012, said he is excited about the challenge and confident about his team’s chances.
“It’s a massive game for us, we know that,” Lampard said. “Real Madrid are a fantastic team with a lot of experience and quality. But we have that too. We have a lot of talent and hunger in this squad. We have to believe in ourselves and play with courage.”
Lampard will also aim to improve Chelsea’s domestic form, as they are currently fourth in the Premier League table, 12 points behind leaders Manchester City.
The 44-year-old said he is honoured to be back at Chelsea, where he spent 13 years as a player and became the club’s all-time top scorer.
“It’s a pretty easy decision to make. This is my club,” Lampard said. “I love this club and I want to help them achieve their goals. I’m very grateful for this opportunity and I’ll give everything I have.”