Frank Lampard stressed Chelsea’s season should not be judged completely on whether they qualify for the Champions League.
The Blues currently sit third in the Premier League and a victory at champions Liverpool on Wednesday, or against Wolves on Sunday, would ensure a top-four finish.
Expectations were low for Lampard’s first season in charge due to a transfer ban, Eden Hazard’s departure and a renewed focus on youth, but Chelsea have not been outside the top four since October.
Given their long stay in the Champions League spots and the importance of playing in Europe’s premier club competition, Lampard accepts that some may now consider missing out as a disappointment, though he does share that viewpoint.
“I understand the black-and-white judgement in the outside world – and the Chelsea fans – about it, because it’s a clear objective to get into the Champions League,” Lampard told reporters ahead of the trip to Anfield.
“My feeling is that whether we come in the top four, or whether it was not to quite work out for us, from some of the huge strides we’ve made this year, there are huge positives that I feel at the club and what we are doing moving forward.
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“I have a huge desire to get [into the Champions League] obviously, but I still feel like we’ve made huge strides.
“We weren’t really in too many people’s top fours at the start of the season. We’ve forced ourselves in there in reality, and I desperately hope we get there, but it shouldn’t put this club off its strides much.
“There were a lot of testing moments this year. We’re showing intentions of moving in the right direction.”
Chelsea will be the latest club to afford Liverpool a pre-match guard of honour in recognition of Jurgen Klopp’s side ending a 30-year wait to become English champions again.
The Reds will also lift the trophy after the game and Lampard, a three-time Premier League winner with Chelsea in his playing days, hopes his squad are motivated by what they see at Anfield.
“I don’t think players should be hurt from it, they should be inspired by it,” Lampard said.
“I’m not going to pin them to the ground and say, ‘You must stare at this, what’s happening’.
“It will be Liverpool’s day in that sense of lifting the trophy. The guard of honour is a sign of respect. I’ve got no problem with it.
“If there’s a small bit of the players standing there, clapping, thinking, ‘I hope this is us in the next two or three years’, then I’m very happy for those feelings and that’s the way it should be.”
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