Lampard: draw not down to Drogba

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The Independent Football

England midfielder Frank Lampard insists the controversy surrounding Didier Drogba did not affect Chelsea's preparation for their Champions League clash with Bordeaux.

Chelsea threw away a second chance to qualify for the knockout stages after drawing 1-1 in France in a game overshadowed by speculation over Drogba's future at the club.

The Ivory Coast striker, who appeared as a second-half substitute, was alleged to have met Inter Milan sporting director Marco Branca in a Fulham restaurant on Monday night.

Drogba has not denied the meeting took place, but the furore over his alleged attendance cast a shadow over coach Luiz Felipe Scolari's preparations and Chelsea now have to beat CFR Cluj in their final Group A game to be sure of a place in the last 16.

Chelsea went ahead through Nicolas Anelka on the hour but Alou Diarra's headed equaliser eight minutes from time has left the Blues with it all to do at Stamford Bridge in a fortnight.

When asked if the Drogba issue had affected the team's performance, Lampard said: "I don't think so.

"We were dedicated to trying to win the game and Didier came on and tried to do that. It is for Didier and the club to talk about."

However, after yet another poor European away performance, the cracks are beginning to show in a squad which started the season laughing and joking under Scolari.

The Brazilian coach wears more of a scowl these days and his mood was not lightened by their failure to win away in Europe for the third time this season.

Now Chelsea will have to beat Cluj without the services of Lampard, who was sent off for a second bookable offence late in the game.

"I thought the sending off was harsh but the referee wanted to give cards out all night and I gave him the opportunity to do it again," said Lampard.

"It is frustrating to miss the final group match because it's going to be a big game for us.

"We have to believe that we can beat Cluj at home. Roma and Bordeaux have been tough games and we haven't got the results we wanted. Now we have to produce at home, which we believe we will do.

"I don't think teams have worked us out, it's more when you get to a certain level teams give you respect.

"They work hard to stop you playing and that's what teams are doing to us in the Premier League and in Europe.

"It's hard to go through a season and keep performing at the top level and I think it's fair to say the last few weeks we haven't been."

Germany midfielder Michael Ballack was more forthright and knows Chelsea have to improve if they are to beat Arsenal on Sunday and remain top of the Barclays Premier League.

Ballack said: "We were lucky to get a point on that performance. It was not a good game from us.

"In the first half we had more possession but not one shot on goal. We had one draw and one defeat away from home before this match and it looks like the group stage this year is more difficult than we expected.

"But we are not thinking about going out of the competition. We are playing at home in our last game, we need a victory and we have to do it now.

"We didn't want it to go to the final game but this is the situation and we have to deal with it.

"It is still in our hands and even if we have to settle for qualifying in second place, it should be our target."

Sunday's clash with Arsenal provides Chelsea with the chance to move 13 points clear of the Gunners.

Arsene Wenger's side are in turmoil after former Chelsea defender William Gallas was stripped of the captaincy for criticising his team-mate.

But Ballack insists that will only make them even more dangerous.

"We hope we can beat them as it would be a lot for Arsenal to come back (from)," he said.

"Arsenal have other problems now but such teams are very dangerous at these moments.

"They have to win to close the gap. We are on top and they are 10 points behind us.

"The team has a target to be champions after finishing second twice but everyone is hungry and the focus is there."

Joe Cole is doubtful for Sunday's game after collecting another ankle injury against Bordeaux.