Chelsea's injury crisis deepened yesterday when it emerged that Frank Lampard has suffered another setback which means he will miss tomorrow's crucial Premier League game against Manchester City and could potentially be out of the match against Arsenal a week on Sunday.
The England midfielder has not played since Chelsea's 2-0 win over Stoke City on 28 August having been diagnosed with a hernia that required surgery. Tomorrow's game at Eastlands was regarded as a comeback date and manager Carlo Ancelotti had suggested there would be some role for Lampard in Wednesday's Carling Cup third-round game against Newcastle United, but further problems earlier this week forced him to miss that game.
The problem was originally thought to be short-term and repairable with keyhole surgery over the international break earlier this month. There are now fears that Lampard will be out even longer than anticipated just as the club approaches their biggest games of the season so far. As well as City and Arsenal, Chelsea face the French champions Marseilles at home on Tuesday in the Champions League.
Ancelotti confirmed yesterday that Lampard will not play against City and in private the Italian is very doubtful that his midfielder will make it in time for the Arsenal game at Stamford Bridge. The operation on Lampard's hernia was a success but the recovery is taking longer than expected and the club are not prepared to risk him early if it makes it worse.
It does throw up the interesting possibility that Lampard could be named in Fabio Capello's England squad for the Euro 2012 qualifier against Montenegro on 12 October having not returned from injury for Chelsea by then. There was surprise that Lampard was not named in the last squad for the games against Bulgaria and Switzerland. He played against Stoke and then went for surgery during the international break.
The effect of Lampard's injury on Chelsea has been made worse by the injuries picked up by Salomon Kalou and Yossi Benayoun in the defeat to Newcastle United. Benayoun looks likely to be out for up to a month with a calf injury. Kalou is also out of tomorrow's game although the injury is not as bad as first thought. Both went for scans late yesterday. Gaël Kakuta, also substituted with an injury against Newcastle, was back in training yesterday.
Chelsea have just 19 senior professionals in their Premier League squad and despite having acquired Ramires and Benayoun in the summer now look thin in midfield, having released Deco, Michael Ballack, Joe Cole and Juliano Belletti. Although only 17, Josh McEachran's performance as a second-half substitute against Newcastle demonstrated that he can be relied upon by Ancelotti.
Otherwise, the injuries mean that the midfielder John Obi Mikel is likely to start at City. He said yesterday that Chelsea posed a major attacking threat to opponents. Mikel said: "If I was a defender playing against Chelsea, I would be very scared because you don't know where we're going to come from –we have Ashley Cole bombing forward on the left side all the time.
"So it is hard to know what to expect when we have all these players bombing forward all the time. If you look at our front three, none of them have a static position, they are all moving around. It is the same with the midfield although I tend to stay a little bit more because I cannot afford to leave that position. Playing that way helps us a lot while the other team is thinking about whether to follow Nicolas Anelka's runs, Frank Lampard or Michael Essien."
The Newcastle midfielder Alan Smith, who captained his team in Wednesday's 4-3 win at Stamford Bridge, said that the victory demonstrated they could stay in the Premier League this season. "It's so easy not to get carried away because everyone will be thinking if we can win this [against Chelsea], we can have a challenge in the Carling Cup. Our main concern is staying in the Premier League. Everyone might say you should set your standards higher than that but that's what we have to do first and foremost."
Newcastle said yesterday that goalkeeper Steve Harper is likely to be out until Christmas after having surgery on the shoulder he injured in the 1-0 win at Everton last weekend.Reuse content