Lampard fires title warning

MIDFIELDER Frank Lampard insists Chelsea can fend off any new year title push from Manchester United after the Blues halted their mini-crisis with a hard-earned victory over bottom club Portsmouth on Wednesday night.

Chelsea overcame a spirited performance from Avram Grant’s side thanks to a 79th-minute spot-kick from Lampard.

The former Chelsea boss looked to have heaped more misery on the Blues, who had taken only one point from their previous two games, when Pompey striker Frederic Piquionne cancelled out Nicolas Anelka’s first-half opener in the 51st minute.

But Branislav Ivanovic was felled by the inexperienced Marc Wilson and Lampard, who missed his last penalty in the defeat at Manchester City, scored with ease.

Chelsea remain three points clear at the top but United boss Alex Ferguson believes his side will emerge triumphant in the title race because they are traditionally stronger after Christmas.

Lampard, however, disagrees.

“United have a history of doing it but we’ve had a history of doing it as well,” he said. “We’re very determined.

“We had a really bad time around this time last year but when Guus Hiddink came in we were in the best form by far of anyone in the league. We can do that again.”

But Chelsea will have to undertake more work on set-pieces after conceding from a dead-ball situation yet again against Portsmouth.

It is an area Lampard accepts needs to be addressed sooner rather than later, with 12 of the 14 goals conceded by Carlo Ancelotti’s side coming from set-plays.

“We’re having a patch at the moment where we’re not pulling away from teams when we might do and every free-kick and corner seems to drop to them in a funny way,” added Lampard. “We are being punished every time and it is just a phase we’re in.

“It’s important to try and stay on your feet. Some fouls you can’t help because you’ve mistimed the tackle but we don’t want to be too clumsy and let people keep launching it in the box.”

Chelsea now face Lampard’s former club West Ham on Sunday and he is convinced ex-Blues duo Gianfranco Zola and Steve Clarke can save the Hammers from the drop.

Lampard has been jeered by West Ham fans every time he has returned to Upton Park following his £11 million (€12.3m) move to Chelsea in 2001. But he is not gloating about their plight near the foot of the Barclays Premier League.

“It’s difficult for West Ham at the moment,” he said.

“I have a lot of respect for Gianfranco and Clarkey and I don’t want to see them do badly at all.’’

Meanwhile Lampard’s team-mate John Terry believes Chelsea are the only club in a position to pick up 90 points in the Premier League this season.

With Chelsea now on 40 points after 17 games, Terry feels the team are capable of passing the 90-point mark, something the club did when winning the title in 2005 and 2006.

And Terry is also adamant that it is the Blues’ own fault that the leaders do not boast a more commanding advantage over their title rivals.

Terry said: “We should be further ahead at the top of the league and we only have ourselves to blame.

“I understand everyone feeling frustrated, our defending of set-plays was unacceptable. We’re still on target for 90 points this season and we are the only club which is. Saturday (3-3 draw with Everton) was the first time we have dropped points at home this term and I want it to be the last.’’


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