Premier League - Early Doors: Chelsea keep things compelling
Hopes of Chelsea somehow retaining the title may be a little far-fetched, but they will have a big say in settling matters up and down the table.
Bloomfield Road continues to provide outstanding value in the Premier League this season.
Chelsea's 3-1 win at Blackpool last night maintains the incredible run of their not being a single clean sheet kept by any team on that ground this season.
It may not be quite the value for money you get down at London Road (which provides the biggest bang for your buck), but in the top flight that sort of return is virtually unheard of. All this without the suspended Charlie Adam and DJ Campbell last night.
Still, the bold charge of the Tangerine Brigade was not enough to stop the champions claiming a win that gives them just the thinnest sliver of hope that they can retain the title.
"We have to believe. It is a long shot and we have a lot to do but if we go and win every game we will have a great chance to do it, but it will be very difficult," said Lampard, who scored two goals last night to make it eight in his 12 appearances since the turn of the year.
"We are still behind but it is nice to be looking up in the table at the top four. We weren't at our best tonight, we were a bit sloppy and we cannot afford to be like that if we want to do anything."
Manager Carlo Ancelotti was a little more circumspect in his assessment of his team's chances, but then it is in his best interests to try and play down expectations after such an underwhelming first half of the season.
The assumption that nothing less than winning the Champions League will see him be standing in the Stamford Bridge dugout at the start of next season remains in some quarters, especially now there will be vacancies at Roma and Bayern Munich come the summer.
The ignominy of finishing fourth and thereby having to qualify for the European Cup via a play-off is unlikely to sit well with Roman Abramovich, especially considering Ancelotti arrived after Chelsea had just finished outside of the top two for the first time in six years.
In a season where there is so much at stake for whoever out of Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham do not make it into the top four, failure is simply not an option, so no wonder Lampard is still talking his team up as title-fighting underdogs.
He added: "If we win every game we still have a chance but Arsenal and Manchester United are good sides and they have a good lead."
Winning every game will certainly shake things up all over the shop. Chelsea still have to play United again, with Arsenal fans hoping they can do the double over the league leaders as much the Stamford Bridge faithful.
Chelsea have only got their second leg against Copenhagen between them and the arrival of Man City later this month, while City have to cram in both legs of their Europa League tie with Dynamo Kiev and an FA Cup clash with Reading before rocking up in west London for their Champions League qualification showdown. At the end of April Chelsea also welcome London rivals Spurs to the Bridge, meaning the securing of third place and with it the avoidance of an inconvenient European play-off is very much in their hands.
The champions will even have a big say in who goes down this season, as they will host Wigan, Birmingham and West Ham as well as travel to Stoke and West Brom before the end of the campaign.
In one of the most compelling seasons in recent memory, Chelsea are going to be right at the heart of all the key matters, which is right where they want to be.
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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I keep hearing about the fragility in the minds of the Arsenal players, but I do not agree. They are competing with Manchester United for the Premier League, reached the final of the Carling Cup and a few seasons ago were in the final of the Champions League. Sometimes they sell players, but Arsenal always keep the same level. Many teams arrive at the top for one year, but then are finished. Arsenal are there every season. For many years they have kept up there, and that is the real merit. Yes, they lack something, but they are a young team." - Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola gives a rather fair assessment of Arsenal ahead of the Gunners arrival at the Camp Nou, although he omitted the words 'to us' from the line "sometimes they sell players".
FOREIGN VIEW: "Di Carlo is a great person but we couldn't do anything else given results," Sampdoria president Riccardo Garrone on his decision to sack manager Domenico di Carlo following the club's woeful form since January. Garrone could, however, have done something about not letting strike duo Antonio Cassano and Giampaolo Pazzini leave for Milan and Inter respectively and replacing them with Federico Macheda and Massimo Maccarone. Samp have scored just five goals in seven league games since the transfer window shut. Still, it probably was Di Carlo's fault.
COMING UP: The Champions League resumes this evening with the first of the second legs of the last 16 clashes. You can follow live coverage of Barcelona v Arsenal live from 19:45, but not before we bring you all the best build-up with team news, match facts, the thoughts of Armchair Pundit Alex Chick, a live Anglo-Spanish debate and the words of Le Prof himself, Arsene Wenger.
Or, if drooling over pass completion rates just isn't your bag, there is also Shakhtar Donetsk v Roma, with the Giallorossi aiming to overturn a 3-2 deficit at one of the hardest places to get a win anywhere in Europe.
Plus there is a full programme of matches in the Championship, League One and League Two to keep track of. Oh, OK, but at least check in on them from time to time during breaks in play at the Camp Nou and pretend you care. Please?
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Early Doors knows little of the world outside the Eurosport office, having been chained to its desk and forced to subsist on a thin gruel of UHT milk and cardboard. It cares little for football itself, preferring to focus on the childish histrionics and self-regarding largesse of those involved in the game. Its primary interests are training-ground bust-ups, Baby Bentleys and deluded chairmen. Like many Premier League players, Early Doors refers to itself only in the third person.