Chelsea are prepared to take a chance on bringing Frank Lampard back for Sunday's game against Tottenham Hotspur after more than three months out as they try to turn around a run of only five points from six Premier League games.
The 32-year-old, who did not travel to Marseilles for the Champions League game, has been impressive in training all week and his manager Carlo Ancelotti is now confident that he is over the worst injury run of his career. He last played against Stoke City on 28 August and since then has suffered two subsequent injuries in his rehabilitation.
Lampard has never been as missed by Chelsea as during their recent poor run which began with the defeat at Liverpool on 7 November and has been followed with losses to Sunderland and Birmingham City. A win against Spurs would be crucial to putting them back on track having slipped to third place behind Arsenal and Manchester United – who they then play in the following two games.
Lampard required a hernia operation in August and was on course to recover from the keyhole procedure within a couple of weeks. However, following surgery he tore a tendon off the bone, an injury which usually requires a further 12-week break and there has been one further setback since then.
He has said that he is not prepared to risk coming back sooner than necessary but after a week of training there is a strong case for putting him into the team to start against Spurs on Sunday. In an interview last month, Lampard said that he was ready to make a quick comeback once he was clear of the injury.
He said: "I'm probably fitter right now than I was in the first game of the season against West Brom – that's because of all the work I have been doing behind the scenes."
Chelsea are also without Jose Bosingwa for the Spurs game and the long-term injured Alex and Yossi Benayoun. Ancelotti did not take Nicolas Anelka or Ashley Cole to France this week in order to rest them ahead of Sunday's game. John Terry was substituted with an ankle injury but should be fit to face Spurs. Yuri Zhirkov is another doubt for the match.
"It's not getting any easier because we have Tottenham next," said Didier Drogba. "But not a lot of people expected us to lose to Marseilles or expected Chelsea to have a difficult moment. Maybe everyone will expect us to lose on Sunday, but it could be different.
"I see Tottenham as genuine title rivals now. They are having a good season and there is no reason why they can't challenge. Chelsea used to beat them regularly but things change, that's life, but it is up to us to make it happen again.
"Obviously these three games are not coming at the right time for us, but maybe these matches will change the situation we're in now if we win them. It's not finished yet."
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