STEADFASTLY ignoring the hubris surrounding John Terry, Frank Lampard was more intent on turning the spotlight on the critics who had predicted Chelsea’s attempt to end Manchester United’s three-season stranglehold on the Premier League would be fatally undermined by the African League of Nations.
Rather than see their challenge crumble due to the absence of four key performers during the tournament, which reached its denouement in Angola yesterday, Carlo Ancelotti’s side have won six games on the bounce.
Chelsea can stretch their advantage at the summit when they return to action in a rearranged fixture at Hull City tomorrow with Ivory Coast duo Didier Drogba, their 19-goal top scorer, and Salomon Kalou set to return.
“A lot of people spoke out about the African Cup of Nations, and said we might struggle because of losing players to it, but we never believed that. We’ve done well,” said Lampard.
Ancelotti will also soon have Nigeria’s John Mikel Obi to call on, although the manager will be without Michael Essien for up to six weeks after the Ghana midfielder sustained a knee injury during the tournament.
Lampard added: “We now move onto Hull and it’s not bad to be able to bring back players of the calibre of Didier and Salomon, is it? They’re big additions to the squad and we’re delighted to have them back.
“We’re on a good run at the moment and it’s important to keep that going. We’re happy to be top because it means we only have to worry about ourselves, and no-one else.”
In the wake of his match-winning contribution, captain John Terry retains the full backing of Ancelotti, who refused to enter the debate into whether his skipper should be stripped of the England captaincy following allegations surrounding his private life.
The Italian added: “I don’t want to talk about John’s private life, but I never thought about not playing him and the players have never lost their trust in him. He’s doing very well at his job and I’m not worried about him because he’s focused on his work.”
Meanwhile, after a bright start, Burnley face a fight to avoid an immediate return to the Championship.
They remain in the bottom three with new manager Brian Laws still searching for a first win in charge.
“The disappointment is that we were only five or six minutes away from getting a point from Chelsea, but we take a lot of positives from the game.”
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