Frank Lampard insists Chelsea will shrug off the injury crisis that threatens to wreck the start of their season.
Jose Mourinho’s side are likely to be without a host of stars, including John Terry, Didier Drogba, Michael Ballack and Arjen Robben, when Birmingham visit Stamford Bridge for the Premiership opener on Sunday.
Lampard admits the loss of so many key players on the eve of the season is far from ideal, but when the England midfielder looks around the changing room, he sees enough strong characters to give him confidence that the Blues will be able to cope.
”In terms of injuries, we are not in the best of shape,” Lampard said. ”There are quite a few people in the treatment room, which is not ideal.
”But we are calling on a bit of character early and have got a very strong group.
”We have got a strong team with a lot of personalities and have a lot of experience from years gone by. The players we have brought in also have experience, so we can go into the season with confidence.”
Lampard takes heart from Chelsea’s resilient display against Manchester United in Sunday’s Community Shield.
Mourinho’s men were able to match United for long periods despite playing without a striker and were only beaten thanks to Edwin van der Sar’s penalty shoot-out heroics.
Lampard said: ”We put in a good performance against United without a recognised frontman for most of the game and without the captain [Terry], who pulled out on Saturday.
”We lost on penalties, but they can go either way and we can still look to the weekend with confidence.
”We were pretty pleased with the performance as a whole. We can get better and will get better.”
Lampard, who captained Chelsea in Terry’s absence, has been playing through the pain barrier for the last three weeks after a breaking a toe on the club’s pre-season tour to America.
But he is willing to put his body on the line to ensure Chelsea get off to a good start. ”I feel okay, and have had to play through a bit of pain, but that is not a big deal,” he said. ”I feel ready to go and have another week to get that bit more sharp.
”I enjoyed captaining the side when John has been away and I tried to influence them as much as I can.
”Hopefully we will not miss John that much until he can be fit.
”The strength John has got in himself, I am sure he will be back out there in a couple of weeks.” — Sapa-AFP