Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 December 2014

Lampard lit up by Chelsea form

Frank Lampard believes Chelsea’s rediscovered fighting spirit will have sent a shudder through the rest of Europe’s top clubs.

Chelsea remain unbeaten under interim coach Guus Hiddink after their 2-2 draw against Juventus in Turin on Tuesday night meant they progressed to the Champions League quarter-finals 3-2 on aggregate.

The Blues were dire on their travels in the group stage this season but Lampard insists they are now in the kind of form which could propel them all the way to the final for the second successive year.

"Maybe no-one will want to face us the way we are playing," the England midfielder said. "When you get to this stage your away performances are important and it is a good sign we scored two against Juventus.

"Away games may not always be the most beautiful of performances and you have to be very strong at certain points of the game. You have to be very clever and we weren’t like that in the group games.

"Now is the crunch time and we did very well. We have had quality and spirit in the squad for the past five years but at times this season we didn’t have and it showed.

"But against Juventus and the previous five games we have shown we are together and, when we have the spirit combined with our quality, we can do whatever we want."

Juventus midfielder Tiago believes his former team-mates can go on to win the competition.

"I am disappointed that we are out, but I believe and hope Chelsea go all the way now," he said. "They still have very good players and they showed against us that they never give up. I wish them all the luck, I loved my time at Chelsea."

One of the biggest pluses for Hiddink was the form of Michael Essien in his first competitive start since he damaged knee ligaments on international duty last September. Prior to Tuesday night, Essien had played just one game for the reserves and had a gentle run out as a substitute against Coventry in the FA Cup.

Hiddink’s decision to play the Ghana international was rewarded when Essien gave Chelsea a vital away goal on the stroke of half-time.

The midfielder was quick to celebrate with club physio Thierry Laurent, the man behind his full recovery.

The 26-year-old paid tribute to the Frenchman, adding: "He has been with me for the past six months and I had to go hug him to thank him for what he did for me.”

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