Cech injury a 'huge blow' admits Lampard

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The Independent Football

Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard labelled Petr Cech's loss as a "huge blow" after the goalkeeper was carried off on a stretcher during their Champions League defeat to Inter Milan.

Cech was carried off in the second-half of last night's 2-1 defeat after damaging his calf collecting a cross and will be further assessed today.

Chelsea coach Carlo Ancelotti could offer no timeline for Cech's return to action until more tests had been carried out on the Czech Republic international.

His injury compounded a night when Chelsea lost their last-16 first-leg tie 2-1 at the San Siro despite outplaying their hosts for much of the game.

Chelsea, facing former boss Jose Mourinho for the first time since he was sacked in September 2007, were stunned by a third-minute strike from Diego Milito.

Salomon Kalou grabbed a vital away goal with the equaliser in the 51st minute only for Esteban Cambiasso to fire the winner four minutes later.

Cech's injury has certainly ruled him out of Saturday's Barclays Premier League clash with Manchester City at Stamford Bridge and he could still be missing by the time Mourinho makes an emotional return for the second leg on March 16.

However, despite the loss of Cech, Lampard believes that understudy Hilario has shown before that he has all the necessary qualities to replace him.

"It is a huge blow to lose Petr," admitted Lampard.

"He has been in fantastic form as everyone knows and he has always been up there with the best in the world and no-one wants to lose that.

"But Hilario has never let us down at all. He has been brilliant every time he has come in whether it is for one game or a run of them.

"That is something we are not worried about. Obviously losing Petr is a big blow but Hilario always comes in and does very well.

"You have to have faith in him, and Ross Turnbull behind him, and we certainly have that."

Lampard does not believe Chelsea can be lauded as favourites to go through to the quarter-finals despite a crucial away goal.

It will be an emotional return to Stamford Bridge for Mourinho and Lampard is well aware that Inter have the capability to damage them at home as well.

"The away goal is very important these days and a 1-0 defeat would have been very frustrating for us," added the England midfielder.

"But we were pleased to get it back to 1-1 and then frustrated to give away another one. But our goal does give us something to go for at home.

"We know if we win the game 1-0 we go through but also we have confidence in ourselves that we can create as many chances, if not more, than we did here and try and score more than one goal.

"We had a lot of shots on target and a probable penalty, but we knew the way Inter Milan were going to play.

"The early goal killed us a little bit. We probably deserved to draw the game but we are halfway there and it is fairly well balanced now."

He added: "Inter Milan are a very good team and not to be underestimated. I think it would be very naive to say we are the favourites because they can also score at our place. So I would say the tie is 50-50."

Lampard, who gave his old boss a little hug before the game began, does not believe Mourinho will be under any pressure when he returns to Stamford Bridge.

"I would not say the pressure is on him, he will see it as a very good challenge," said Lampard. "He is in the lead and he will take positives from that.

"They are no mugs. They could easily have been drawing or losing after the first leg and then there would have been pressure but he is in the lead, so he will try and get the right result after the next game.

"They are 2-1 up and coming to London which will be a different game. They got a fair result in the end. Yes, we had a lot of possession and were a stronger team in play but it does not make too many odds.

"It might suit them to play more on the counter attack, that's their style. They won't be dwelling on this game too much.

"Jose will get a fantastic reception and quite rightly. He is the most successful manager in our history and I am sure the fans will want to pay respect to him. He will want to pay his respect to the club.

"It's nice and good see that respect from both sides. But when the game starts we will want to win and so will they."

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