Chelsea boss Frank Lampard says he respects Ajax but does not fear them as the two sides prepare to face each other in Champions League Group H.
whilAjax, who narrowly lost to Tottenham in last season’s semi-finals, have a 100 per cent record so far this campaign, beating both Lille and Valencia by a 3-0 scoreline heading into tomorrow night’s game in Amsterdam.
Meanwhile, Chelsea are on a run of five straight wins but are currently three points behind the Dutch champions in the group having recorded one win and a draw from their opening two games.
And after Chelsea’s hard-fought 1-0 win over Newcastle United at the weekend, Lampard’s attention immediately turned to the Ajax game – with some journalists suggesting Lampard was afraid during Chelsea’s pre-match press conference.
“I respect Ajax because I watched them play last season and, I know they have changed slightly since then, but I am aware of the threats they pose,” Lampard replied.
“To travel anywhere in the Champions League is difficult and they have won two games convincingly
“But it’s not a case of being afraid of them, we hugely respect them as a team but are confident in ourselves.
“For us five wins means nothing, this is a completely different test so after beating Newcastle it was important we immediately flicked a switch to concentrate on this game.”
With Chelsea forced to rely on youth this season following their transfer ban, similarities have also been made with Ajax’s own production line of academy talent.
However, although Lampard acknowledged it is ‘a good model’, he believes his club still has a long way to go to match their Dutch counterparts.
“We mustn’t get carried away, success in the longer-term is what we have to work towards,” Lampard said.
“But I think there is pride in the short-term work we’ve achieved and it’s a good feeling at the club at the moment.
“It’s long overdue recognition for the academy and the players themselves but we’re in a place steeped in history in bringing players through and creating great teams with groups of young players over the years so we can’t make any similarities.”
Chelsea go into the encounter without Ross Barkley, N’Golo Kante, Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger.
Barkley suffered an ankle injury in Saturday’s win over Newcastle while Kante sustained a groin injury on international duty.
Meanwhile, centre-back Christensen will be unavailable for around two weeks after he sustained a hamstring injury playing for Denmark and Rudiger has only just returned to training.