Lampard's praise for Di Matteo despite Chelsea first team exclusion
Frank Lampard has suggested that Roberto Di Matteo has coped much better than Andre Villas-Boas when it comes to telling him he has been left out of the Chelsea team.
Lampard admitted shortly before Villas-Boas's departure last month to having been at odds with the 34-year-old, who habitually omitted him from big games.
Matters reportedly came to a head when Lampard was told he would not start a Champions League match at Napoli in February. Di Matteo, who has started Lampard in almost every game since taking charge, delivered similar news before last week's quarter-final first-leg win against Benfica.
Asked if Di Matteo had taken a different approach to Villas-Boas, Lampard said: "Yes, that is fair to say. I spoke with Robbie and certainly had no issue with it. I was delighted to get the result we got. I came on in the last 20 minutes anyway."
Di Matteo was reportedly not liked any more than Villas-Boas by the Chelsea squad while the Italian was the Portuguese's assistant but players have poured praise on the former Blues midfielder for the way he has transformed their season. Lampard said: "He has kept it very simple. It's a case of getting a confidence and passion through the team and, in the results we've had, you'd say he has done that."
Villas-Boas seemed determined to undertake a mass cull of older players and when asked if he had tried to change too much too soon, Lampard said: "It's hard to pinpoint things. I don't want to go too much over negatives. We didn't perform to a level, that's why the manager changed and us, as players, are not happy because you don't feel as proud as you should be when you know the squad we've got should be doing better."
Lampard believes Chelsea have enough quality to deny third-placed Arsenal or fourth-placed Tottenham a Champions League spot, either by overhauling them in the league or by ending their own wait for European glory.
The 33-year-old said: "We certainly don't feel like all our eggs are in the European basket. We have to be aware that Benfica at home is still to get through, then we will potentially face Barcelona or Milan in the semi-final and then we have the final. To win them all to try to confirm our Champions League status for next year, it is a risky card, albeit one well within our means."
Di Matteo could rest Lampard again for tomorrow's Champions League return with Benfica, while Chelsea will continue to monitor the injured David Luiz (ankle) and Didier Drogba (foot).