News24

Lampard return boosts Chelsea

2009-11-28 07:54

London - Chelsea will be at full strength for Sunday's showdown with Arsenal, manager Carlo Ancelotti said Friday after confirming that Frank Lampard had completed his recovery from a thigh muscle tear.

The Premier League leaders travel to north London knowing that a win over a depleted Arsenal squad would extend their advantage over Arsene Wenger's men to 11 points.

Even with a game in hand, Arsenal would struggle to close that gap but Ancelotti insists they will remain a threat even if his side take all three points on offer at the Emirates.

"This is not a decisive match for Chelsea or for Arsenal," the Italian said. "It's an important match. Arsenal will want to win the game, and Chelsea also, but it's not decisive for the title.

"It would be 11 points if we won, but Arsenal would have a game in hand. It's not so important for the title.

"But it is a very important game because Arsenal are one of the most important teams in England and Europe.

"They're playing very well. I like their style - they try to play and attack to create difficulties for the other teams. It will be a very good test for us."

Ancelotti is aiming to complete a clean sweep of wins over the other members of English football's big four having already masterminded victories over Liverpool and Manchester United in his first season in charge at Chelsea.

But he does not regard Premier League summit meetings as necessarily the key to the title battle.

"We want to win to try to improve our position, that's all, not send a message. When you play against a strong team like Arsenal or Manchester United, it's an important test. This is an important test for us, but nobody else."

Arsenal are widely regarded as being vulnerable to Chelsea's physical power, epitomised by the muscular threat of Didier Drogba.

But Ancelotti argued that Arsenal have proved themselves equally adept at picking up goals from set pieces and said the match was likely to be decided by the battle for ascendancy in midfield.

"Arsenal have very good midfielders who we have to control," he said. "This can be a difficult match for us if Arsenal keep control of midfield."

Lampard's availability could have an impact in that area, the midfielder having recovered ahead of schedule from the thigh injury he suffered while training with England in Qatar last month.

"He trained for the last two days and did very well," Ancelotti reported. "He's a tremendous professional, he has worked incredibly hard for many, many hours and he is in good condition."

AFP