While an obviously talented midfielder, Frank Lampard became one of his generation’s best players thanks in no small part to an unwavering fitness level which he painstakingly honed over the years.
Chelsea’s record goalscorer got the call that he would be making his professional debut for West Ham while he was performing sprint exercises at the local park. Presumably, his father – Frank Lampard Snr., who was on the coaching staff and made the call – had grown weary of his son endlessly sprinting the length of his back garden in running spikes.
Possessed by this maniacal work ethic, it’s unsurprising that Lampard Jr. has not been impressed by the fitness of the Chelsea squad he recently inherited. Yet, with the second leg of a Champions League quarter-final fast approaching on Tuesday night, there is no time for the physical work which the team supposedly needs.
In fact, there is barely enough time for Lampard to recover a gaggle of players that are not only falling short of Lampard’s physical standards but are struggling for match fitness.
Here are all of the absentees, through injury and suspension, which Lampard will have to juggle as Chelsea attempt to overturn a 2-0 deficit from the first leg in Spain.
No team left in the tournament has received more Champions League yellow cards than Chelsea this season. However, Ben Chilwell skipped a caution when he received a straight red card as the deepest defender denying Real Madrid’s Rodrygo a clear goalscoring opportunity last Wednesday.
Despite Chelsea’s prolific number of bookings, Chilwell is the only member of the Blues that is suspended for the return leg. In the unlikely event that Chelsea advance to the semi-finals, no player is at risk of missing the final four as yellow cards are wiped on completion of the quarter-finals.
Kalidou Koulibaly was forced off with a hamstring injury against Real Madrid just four minutes after Chilwell was sent off trying to rectify the poor positioning of Marc Cucurella, Koulibaly’s replacement.
The Senegal international will not feature in the return leg but fellow centre-back Thiago Silva is expected to anchor the defence after sitting out last weekend’s loss to Brighton. Kai Havertz felt a twinge in his knee against Madrid and also missed the dismantling dished out by the Seagulls but returned to training on Monday.
N’Golo Kante, the player of the match in the 2021 Champions League final, has been plagued by injury this season and wasn’t rushed straight back into Premier League action after starting against Madrid.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek, another injury-riddled midfielder, is set to join the World Cup winner in the squad which hosts the reigning Champions League holders on Tuesday. Joao Felix could also come back into the starting XI while long-term absentee Armando Broja continues to watch on from the sidelines.
Given the sprawling masses of invariably expensive players currently under contract at Chelsea for the next decade, several key figures were not included in the altered squad submitted for the knockout stages.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is arguably the most high-profile absentee. The former Arsenal and Borussia Dortmund striker has scored 17 goals in the Champions League across his career – Raheem Sterling is the only other Chelsea player in double digits.
January recruits Benoit Badiashile, David Datro Fofana and Noni Madueke didn’t make the cut either.
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Full Chelsea Champions League squad
Goalkeepers: Kepa Arrizabalaga, Marcus Bettinelli, Edouard Mendy, Lucas Bergstrom
Defenders: Thiago Silva, Trevoh Chalobah, Ben Chilwell, Reece James, Kalidou Koulibaly, Cesar Azpilicueta, Marc Cucurella, Wesley Fofana
Midfielders: Enzo Fernandez, N’Golo Kante, Mateo Kovacic, Mason Mount, Denis Zakaria, Conor Gallagher, Carney Chukwuemeka, Charlie Webster, Lewis Hall, Ruben Loftus-Cheek
Forwards: Joao Felix, Christian Pulisic, Raheem Sterling, Kai Havertz, Hakim Ziyech, Mykhailo Mudryk, Armando Broja
On this edition of Son of Chelsea, part of the 90min podcast network, Daniel Childs reacts to the Blues’ 2-1 loss to Brighton and contemplates whether they are in danger of relegation. If you can’t see this embed, click here to listen to the podcast!