Lampard: I expect Barca to win every game they play... but we can beat them
Published 22:31 16/04/12 By Darren Lewis
Defiant Frank Lampard insists Chelsea are relishing their role as underdogs against Barcelona.
The Catalan kings are red-hot favourites to beat Roberto Di Matteo’s men in the first leg of their blockbuster Champions League semi-final on Wednesday night.
But Lampard said: “I don’t mind if people write us off against Barca.
“We’re in the semi-final on merit. I understand what people are saying - everyone has this feeling with Barcelona that they’re going to roll over everyone.
“When they’re at their best they can do that. But we can’t show too much fear against them. We have to respect them, but we have take them on and play the way we did [in their FA Cup semi-final win over Spurs].
"If we do that, we can give anyone in world football a game - including Barcelona.”
Pep Guardiola’s defending European champions have carried all before them in the competition so far.
No team has ever retained the European Cup since the competition switched to the Champions league format, but the inspirational Leo Messi has been hailed as the man to help Barca change that.
Lampard added however: “I’m probably the same as everyone else – whenever I watch Barcelona on telly I expect them to win, so it doesn’t worry me that people say we have no chance. But when you’re coming up against them you have to believe in yourself.
“At Chelsea, we feel we’ve given them tough games when we’ve met before and we’re ready to do that again.”
The message sent out to Barca’s scouts at Wembley as Spurs were put to the sword was clear: Chelsea’s battled-hardened veterans are rising to the occasion yet again.
Leaving aside the part played by ref Martin Atkinson in allowing THAT goal, John Terry cleared a Rafael van der Vaart effort off the line, Didier Drogba netted what must surely be the finest goal yet scored at the new Wembley and Lampard himself smashed in Chelsea’s brilliant fourth.
Clearly Barca represent a whole new level, but Lampard is certain that Chelsea's 5-1 win over Tottenham will have given the men from the Nou Camp something to think about.
He said: “Barcelona won’t be underestimating us. They’ve proved themselves as a team and as players. We’ll concentrate on ourselves.
“If we play the way we did on Sunday, with focus and determination plus the ability we have in our team, we have to believe we have a chance.
“The second half was probably as well as we’ve played all season.
“We’ve come out of the [Spurs] game with confidence, but this is now a completely new game. We need to start again. Every game now, we can’t rest.
“Sunday’s game was a symbol of Chelsea at our best and people know what we’re about.
“There’s not many teams you’d fancy to beat Barcelona over two legs of a semi-final - they’ve shown just how good they are in the last few years.
“It’s a huge, huge challenge - as big as anyone could take on. And if we win it would be one of our biggest victories.
"But it will only put us in the final, it won’t win us the cup. So then the next one comes.”
The debate continues as to how Di Matteo’s men will deal with Messi.
But then, the same topic came up prior to the meeting of the two teams at this stage three years ago, and Chelsea did so well that it was only the hapless refereeing of Tom Henning Ovrebo that kept them out of the final.
However, Lampard admits: “Messi is a different player to 2009. He was a fantastic player then, but now he’s improved.
“The level he’s taken his game to is something I’ve never seen before. I grew up watching Maradona, who was my idol as a player, but Messi has taken it even further levels, certainly in his club football.
“To score 70 goals, which he’ll probably end up with this season – that’s crazy figures. He’s the best player in the world on merit.
At the other end of the field from Messi, however, a Drogba playing as the talismanic Chelsea striker did at Wembley will be a handful for Barca.
Lampard said of the Ivorian's goal against Spurs: “Didier came up with something special, which you need your strikers to do now and then.
“It was an amazing goal.
“Sometimes with Didier, you just stick it on his chest, because there’s no-one in the world who controls it on his chest and moves instantly on it like he does.
“To get a yard of space on a defender like William Gallas and hit it with your so-called wrong foot into the top corner? Didi has hit some iconic goals for Chelsea over the years and that goes right in there with them.”
Interim boss Di Matteo had been expected to pick a shadow side and keep his men fresh for Barcelona.
But Lampard insisted his side will be driven by the momentum generated by so many high-pressure matches.
He said: “They’re all cup finals at the moment - the league games, the Champions League and the FA Cup. We have to approach them all in the same manner as we did today.
“I think we thrive on these games. It was up to the manager what team he picked and he went for a strong team, but we’ve got a strong squad.
“We all live right these days and the idea of another two or three days between games and then playing Barcelona - if you can’t get your mind and body ready for that, then I don’t know when you can.
“The manager will pick the team on merit on Wednesday, but we’re fit and fresh and ready to go. I’m certainly not going to ask to be rested.
"Our fixture list is amazing - and thank God for that, because when we lost away at Napoli you could see our season flitting away.
“Now, all of a sudden, we’re interested in everything.
"We’re all happy to be here and the manager has to use the squad.
"Didier hasn’t played for a few games but he comes in [against Tottenham] and puts in one of the performances of the season.
"It just shows that players have to stay fresh and, when you’re called upon, you perform.”