Frank Lampard ruled out of Chelsea tie against Sparta Prague

Rafael Benitez has chosen to rest the midfielder

Frank Lampard will have to wait to score his 200th goal for Chelsea as interim manager Rafael Benitez has chosen to rest the midfielder for tomorrow's Europa League tie against Sparta Prague.

Lampard's Stamford Bridge future may be in doubt but the 34-year-old's goal scoring prowess is not, having fired five goals in his last six games for the Blues.

That run has seen Lampard move just three goals shy of Bobby Tambling's all-time record of 202 for Chelsea - a target Benitez fully expects Lampard to pass before his contract runs out at the end of the season.

However, the midfielder will not be able to add to that haul tomorrow as Benitez plans to rest him for the last-32 tie with Sparta, for which the west Londoners boast a one-goal lead from last week's first leg.

"Lampard will not be in the squad tomorrow because we have to manage it a little bit," he said, with Sunday's trip to second-place Manchester City clearly in mind.

"If he can score a lot of goals it will be fantastic for him and will be fantastic for us.

"Everybody knows that he is close. I am sure they will try to help if they have a chance. If we have a penalty, he can take it and things like this.

"But the main thing is he's doing well, scoring goals. We have more competition now and that's good for me. It's a problem, but a good one because we have too many games, so to have many players available is good."

Lampard has impressed Benitez since his November arrival, scoring a goal in almost every other game under the interim boss.

His importance to the side is clear and similar to the role played by Steven Gerrard during the Spaniard's time at the Liverpool helm.

"In terms of liking to score goals and their timing getting into the box is really good, that's their similarity," Benitez said.

"Both are offensive midfielders who can score every game. They can take penalties, free-kicks and can still score in open play. They are two great players.

"It's important to have these kind of players, they are good professionals, who train properly and stay fit. He's doing that so I have to manage him."

Along with Lampard, Branislav Ivanovic will also be rested for tomorrow's meeting with the Czech side, while Chelsea will have to do without the cup-tied Demba Ba.

"At the moment this is the priority as we play Sparta Prague tomorrow," Benitez said.

"One game at a time and that is the most important game we have to play.

"I was not just analysing their players, but the performance of the team.

"I think the team had a good idea about what they wanted to do. The manager did a good job.

"The shape of the team, movement and patterns were good and we were talking about the before. We know it will not be an easy game. For sure."

The immediate focus may be on success with Chelsea but speculation is mounting over Benitez potentially making a move to Real Madrid, with reports suggesting he called them his sporting "sweetheart".

"In Spain, translation always changes something so I never said 'sweetheart'," Benitez said this afternoon.

"I have a lot of respect for Real Madrid because they have a manager in place, but I have a job to do at Chelsea and a contract here.

"My job now is to do my best for Chelsea so it is very clear."

PA

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