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Grant gives Lampard time to decide over Man Utd clash

in English Premier League 25 Apr 2008

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Chelsea manager Avram Grant will let Frank Lampard leave it until the last minute to decide if he wants to play in Saturday's Premier League title showdown against Manchester United.

Lampard didn't train on Friday because he was mourning the death of his mother Pat, who passed away on Thursday after a brief bout of pneumonia.

Chelsea are willing to give Lampard as much compassionate leave as he wants, but Grant refused to confirm if the England midfielder will definitely opt to spend time with his family instead of playing at Stamford Bridge.

Lampard missed Chelsea's matches against Wigan and Everton before returning for the 1-1 midweek Champions League clash at Liverpool because he believed his mother's condition was improving.

Now Blues manager Grant will speak to Lampard before the United match and tell him he should do whatever feels right.

“We need to speak to Frank of course. Football is very important but it is more important how he feels with this,” Grant said here Friday at Chelsea's training ground, south west of London.

“He didn't train today. I can tell you our thoughts are with him. We are a close family here at Chelsea.

“All our sympathy is with Frank and his family. We want to make sure when he comes back we are still fighting.

“I think it could bring the team closer together. It's not an easy situation. All the players and staff were very sad for him.”

If Lampard does miss out Michael Essien is likely to replace him for a match that Chelsea have to win to keep their title hopes alive.

Grant's side must beat United to move level on points with the leaders with two games to play.

If they lose, United will open up a six-point lead that would effectively make them champions again because of their vastly superior goal difference.

There is no margin for error for the Blues, who face a week that will define their season and possibly Grant's future at the club.

Liverpool visit Stamford Bridge on Wednesday for the Champions League semi-final second leg and if Grant fails to deliver either that prize or the league he could quickly find himself out of a job.

It would be understandable if the Israeli was starting to feel the strain. But there were no signs of any frayed nerves on Friday.

“The pressure is good. I hope I have it all my life, a week like this. It is exciting for everybody,” Grant said.

“We worked hard to come to this situation and we want to enjoy it.

“I'm sure people will ask about my future if something negative happens. I am thinking positive.”

Grant believes the spirit Chelsea have shown to remain in the title race despite trailing the leaders by eight points at one stage can help them inflict United's first league defeat since February.

“We are a team that came from fifth to second place and showed a lot of spirit, good football and good recovery from some difficult situations. We are a team that is not easy to beat.”

Chelsea's formidable home record – they are unbeaten at Stamford Bridge in 80 league matches – could give them a psychological advantage as Grant prepares to throw caution to the wind.

“When we play in our home against anyone we want to win. It doesn't matter what the situation is,” he said. “We played with attacking players since I came here. We will not change it tomorrow (Saturday).

“In any case they cannot take the championship tomorrow. We don't want them to take it at all.”

If Chelsea need any further motivation, Grant will stoke their fires by reminding his players of the injustice of their 2-0 defeat away to United at Old Trafford in September.

That was Grant's first match in charge after Jose Mourinho's departure and he is still bitter about the red card awarded in that game to Mikel Jon Obi.

“I didn't think we played badly, we lost to the referee in that game,” he said. “You remember the red card and the penalty that was not a penalty.

“There were a few strange decisions in that game. I always expect a fair referee but we didn't have one at Old Trafford.”

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