Belfast Telegraph

Andre Villas-Boas stands by Frank Lampard's demotion

Andre Villas-Boas last night hit out at the "negative" readings of Frank Lampard's reduced role at Chelsea, insisting the midfielder remained one of the club's most important players.

Blues boss Villas-Boas declared he was fed up of answering questions about Lampard's future, which has been the subject of speculation after he started three of the last four games on the bench and was substituted in the other.

That has provided further ammunition to those who claim Lampard's powers are on the wane after the 33-year-old lost his place in the England side earlier this month.

The man who once set a Premier League record for consecutive outfield appearances has certainly been rested by Villas-Boas of late, either as part of a squad-rotation policy or in order to preserve his ageing legs for the bigger games.

In either case, that should mean he starts tonight's Champions League Group E clash at Valencia but, should he not, speculation about his future will reach fever pitch.

Yet, Villas-Boas - who refused to confirm whether the midfielder would be in his XI - insisted that would be completely unjustified.

In a pre-match press conference that veered from tension to levity, the Chelsea boss branded most questions about Lampard as "negative", adding: "I think I've answered that question enough."

Asked what he particularly took issue with, the Portuguese added: "The fact that these players are 'changing' and that they are 'out' and then they are 'in' and, 'What is the problem with this player?' and, 'How is he going to react to a different situation?'

"I don't see things like that.

"We all see things in the dressing room as team objectives and collective objectives, nothing else."

Villas-Boas launched a impassioned defence of Lampard, saying: "Frank is an established player, a top-quality player, he's one of the most important players for the club and will continue to be. He's an established player for Chelsea, for England, has nothing to prove to the football world.

"He's a spectacular team player, a spectacular professional, and he will continue to succeed at this club I think - and I hope - for the remainder of my years at this club."

Villas-Boas insisted there was "nothing dramatic" in his refusal to confirm whether Lampard would be recalled at the Mestalla tomorrow.

He added: "I just go on managing my team and the biggest challenge of the manager is having everybody motivated.

"Everybody wants to play, so everybody competes for a place.

"There's no mystique in this situation. It's the day-by-day life of management."

Villas-Boas, who was appointed Chelsea manager this summer, also sidestepped questions about whether squad rotation was now a fact of life at Stamford Bridge.

But asked whether his approach to team selection was an improvement on his predecessors, he said: "I don't know if it's better or if it's worse. Chelsea has a fantastic record in the last eight years, with three Premier Leagues and three FA Cups."

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