Chelsea title hopes hit as Lampard limps home

Midfielder out for up to six weeks after picking up thigh injury during training for England's friendly
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The Independent Football

There were fears last night that Frank Lampard could be facing six weeks out of action after he injured a thigh during England training yesterday in the Middle East. The Chelsea midfielder flew back to London for further treatment on an injury that will cause major problems for his club.

The 31-year-old is a crucial element of Carlo Ancelotti's team and questions will once again be asked about the wisdom of a seven-hour flight to play an international friendly in the middle of a busy month for club sides.

Lampard has enjoyed one of the most injury-free careers of any player in the modern era, although he did suffer from a thigh injury in the 2007-08 season. Immediately after news of the problem broke it was hoped that he would still be able to play in the league game against Wolverhampton Wanderers a week on Saturday but that is now out of the question. He is also set to miss the key match against Arsenal on 29 November.

Lampard suffered the injury in England's first training session here, where they are playing a friendly as a reciprocal agreement with Brazil and International Sports Events, who own the rights to Brazil's friendlies. Without him the England squad looks as depleted as any under Fabio Capello since the Trinidad trip in June last year.

In the team as a whole, Capello has only three players – Gareth Barry, John Terry and Wayne Rooney – who are members of his favoured first XI. The England manager has been compliant with Premier League managers this month and agreed to give time off to players suffering from relatively minor injuries.

The withdrawal of Lampard means that Capello will only have Barry available to face Brazil tomorrow from what is arguably his first-choice midfield. Steven Gerrard, Aaron Lennon and Theo Walcott are all already missing with injuries, while David Beckham has been spared a call-up so as to play in the LA Galaxy's MLS play-off game against Houston Dynamo.

Lampard's absence should give Michael Carrick another chance to re-establish himself in Capello's thoughts. Providing everyone is fit, the Manchester United man is only a borderline choice for the final World Cup squad and failed to impress in the qualifier defeat to Ukraine in October. The Tottenham pair of Jermaine Jenas and Tom Huddlestone also have a chance of playing.

The Spurs striker Jermain Defoe, who is likely to begin the match on the bench with Rooney and Peter Crouch favourites to start, was drawn into the David Ngog diving debate yesterday and said that he could see a scenario in which an England striker might do the same as the Liverpool player.

"It's difficult because the game is so fast," Defoe said. "Maybe it's so quick and you're running with and you might get a slight touch. You're trying to win the game. You've got to understand. If you do get a penalty, no one's going to complain. The manager's not going to say: 'You've dived.' Because you've got a penalty. Obviously, it's not right because, when it goes against you, it's not nice. But the game's so quick. If you get a little touch it feels like a bigger touch. It's not something that's discussed. You talk about tactics, not diving. Everyone knows you shouldn't dive, you shouldn't cheat. But players will try to do it to get an advantage."

Games Lampard may miss

21 Nov Wolves (h) PL

25 Nov Porto (a) CL

29 Nov Arsenal (a) PL

2 Dec Blackburn (a) LC

5 Dec Man City (a) PL

8 Dec Apoel Nicosia (h) CL

12 Dec Everton (h) PL

16 Dec Portsmouth (h) PL

20 Dec West Ham (a) PL

26 Dec Birmingham (a) PL