Lampard lines up record appearance

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The Independent Online

Players come and players go, but Frank Lampard is always there. At least for Chelsea, because the midfielder will set a Premiership record today when he walks out against Portsmouth at Fratton Park for his 160th consecutive league appearance.

His consistency has set him apart from all others. Thanks to his goal-scoring and readiness to fight injury, allied to a cool temperament, his manager Jose Mourinho said yesterday that he would not swap him for any player in the world.

Mourinho said of the 27-year-old: "He is a complete player. He is very strong in every aspect. I wouldn't swap him for any player: Ronaldinho, Kaka, or Andrei Shevchenko. He plays every game if it rains or snows. Away or home, soft or difficult opponents, whether they play a zonal system against him, or are aggressive. He is my perfect player and I wouldn't change him for anyone."

Lampard has tried to play down the record since it became apparent that he could go close or even beat David James' achievement of 159 consecutive games. But Mourinho said that the England international had had it in his sights since the end of last season.

With two games to go to the end of that campaign and Chelsea already league champions, Lampard could have opted for early surgery on his toe. But he played on through the pain and today will reap his reward at Portsmouth.

Mourinho said: "He could have had surgery two weeks before the end of the season but he said he preferred to do it after games against Manchester United and Newcastle and carry on."

Yet despite Lampard's Stakhanovite tendencies, Mourinho is not concerned there will be a problem as the 2006 World Cup nears. A combination of occasional rest in less vital games and a month-long gap between the end of this season and the start of the tournament means Lampard should be fresh for duty in Germany.

"He is a player who can recover quite well," Mourinho said. "He is very strong physically. Training here is controlled and that means he can play a hard season in England.

"This year there is a big gap between the end of the season and the World Cup. An intelligent manager can perfectly rest his players, start working again and prepare for a good World Cup and Frank has, in Sven Goran Eriksson, an experienced and intelligent person to control that. So I think also he will have a good World Cup."

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