Benitez backs Lampard to break record
Rafa Benitez has backed Frank Lampard to break Bobby Tambling's scoring record - even though the Chelsea manager can only guarantee the midfielder an appearance in one of the three remaining games of the season.
Lampard is currently on 201 goals, one behind Tambling's milestone. Benitez has said the midfielder will start away to Aston Villa this Saturday, but any help he wants to give the player has to be balanced by his need to send out a fully-fit and prepared team.
"I have confidence he will do it," Benitez said. "If I think he will do it, it means at least he can play one more game and, afterwards, we'll see what happens in the other two.
"What I can say is that Lampard will play against Aston Villa. Frank is a great professional, a very good player. No doubt about that. I'm really pleased with him because he's training really well every day. His fitness is quite good. He's working hard in every game.
"If he can score against Aston Villa, it will be easier for me in the last two games. I will do what I have to do to win games. If, at the same time, I can help Frank, I will do it."
The manager's words were not so encouraging for another Chelsea stalwart, John Terry. The captain has not started any of the last three games and Benitez could not offer him assurances he would play any part over the next ten days.
"The competition in this position is really hard here," he said. "Cahill, Ivanovic, David Luiz are all doing well too. Now we have four centre-backs who have to compete, and they are doing well."
When asked whether Terry would play in the Europa League final against Benfica on Wednesday next week, Benitez merely maintained he "hasn't decided yet".
He added: "I cannot say anything about the final [in terms of who is picked]. We have to play another game and, after, we will decide the team for the final. That's it. The only player I can guarantee will be picked is Lampard against Villa. After, we will see about the final."
The Spaniard also denied that December's 8-0 win against Aston Villa at Stamford Bridge would have any bearing on Saturday's match.
"We know that it's really important but, at the same time, we know we have to win one game. So, if we can win against Aston Villa it will be easier to approach the final with confidence. If we cannot, we'll still have another chance. We are in a very good position. We want to be in a better position, winning against Aston Villa."
Eden Hazard, meanwhile, is facing a battle to be fit for the Villa game.
"Hazard is someone we have to keep an eye on," Benitez said. "He's the one we have a bit of concern about."