Chelsea's Benitez won’t stop rotating Lampard
LONDON - Agence France-Presse
Chelsea’s Spanish manager Rafael Benitez reacts during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Swansea City at Stamford. AFP photoRafael Benitez insists he will continue to rotate Frank Lampard in his Chelsea starting line-up after the midfielder moved to within one goal of the club’s all-time scoring record.
Lampard claimed his 201st Chelsea goal from the penalty spot to secure a 2-0 victory over Swansea at Stamford Bridge on Sunday after appearing as a 24th minute replacement for the injured Ramires.
The England midfielder has found his starting opportunities limited in recent weeks as Benitez has attempted to manage his squad through a crowded fixture schedule and, with his contract due to expire at the end of the season, time is running out for Lampard to match or surpass Bobby Tambling’s mark.
Should Chelsea eliminate Basle in this week’s Europa League semi-final second leg, they will have five more fixtures this season, but Chelsea manager Benitez won’t guarantee he will feature in all of them.
“Frank is a great player,” said Benitez. “I’m really pleased he’s scored another goal, and hopefully he will score five between now and the end of the season and he’ll be much happier.
“He’s a good player with quality. If you’re controlling with possession, he can have an influence.
“I was talking before the game saying he had to be ready but he’s a great professional.
“He understands the priority is to qualify for the Champions League. He wants to play but he understands the team is first.” Lampard’s introduction lifted Chelsea’s performance and the midfielder set up Oscar for the 43rd minute opening goal before converting from the spot in first half stoppage-time.
The win moved Benitez’s side into third place, three points clear of Tottenham who lie fifth but the manager believes the battle for a top four finish will continue until the last day of the season.
Benitez, who expects Ramires to be fit to face Basel, said: “I said that, maybe, it will go to the last game. If nothing happens different or special, it could be until the last game against Everton.
“We have to do our job, manage the squad, playing this attacking football we played in the second half with combinations, we’ll be okay.” Meanwhile, Chelsea captain John Terry started a second successive game in the wake of his admission he is ready to reverse his decision to retire from international football.
Benitez, who will leave Stamford Bridge at the end of the season, insisted he hadn’t spoken to Terry about the England situation. He said: “That is not my business. My business is to keep him as fit as possible for every game. Afterwards, another manager will take responsibility for this in the summer.
“I say ‘another manager’, but that is the international manager or whatever. I only speak to him about Chelsea and I want him to be fit and ready.