Blues midfield improving for United test
Frank Lampard today looked set to start Chelsea's crunch Premier League game against Manchester United after coming through a practice match unscathed. England midfielder Lampard completed what was a 60-minute game at the club's Cobham training ground, which involved players from the reserve and youth teams.
The 32-year-old made a surprise comeback after three-and-a-half months on the sidelines in Sunday's 1-1 draw at Tottenham, playing the final 12 minutes at White Hart Lane. Manager Carlo Ancelotti revealed after the game that Lampard would start against league leaders United this weekend providing he suffered no reaction in today's training match.
His return from injury is a huge boost to the faltering champions, who are on their worst run in the league for more than a decade after failing to win any of their last five games. They have slipped from first to fourth and are three points behind United having played a game more. Lampard's absence has also forced Ancelotti to throw summer signing Ramires in at the deep end.
The Brazil midfielder has struggled to make an impact since becoming the Blues' only big-money buy during the last transfer window. After an outstanding performance against Arsenal in October, the 23-year-old looked to have found his feet but he was unable to rediscover that form until impressing at Tottenham on Sunday.
That has given him the confidence to declare he is finally beginning to demonstrate why Chelsea paid Benfica a reported £18.3m for his services.
"I feel good, I feel better all the time and I think I am more adapted than I was before, and starting to show the football I played at my previous clubs," he told his club's official website, www.chelseafc.com. "I am working harder and harder to show that I am more at home in England."
Ramires, who had never left his native Brazil until moving to Portugal last year, claims the language barrier has been a problem for him but revealed his determination to learn English as quickly as possible.
Speaking through an interpreter, he added: "With the language, I am still taking lessons to try and improve my English because, obviously, I want to be more chatty with the rest of the people here and want people to know more about me.
"It is hard sometimes. You don't always understand what you are being told and it is hard for me to express myself, but I am enjoying the lessons and my English is getting better all the time. As for life in London, I am settling, I have my family here with me and I am happy, so things are going well and I look forward to fulfilling my contract with Chelsea."
He has also had to adapt to the pace of the Premier League and to a team that have been without several of their best players for much of the season.
"It is everything I expected," he said. "I came prepared for the speed and the strength of the Premier League and what I find is that the training sessions at Chelsea are as intense as the matches, so the matches are exactly as I thought they would be.
"Training here is even better, I like the fact that training is intense because that way you prepare for matches as you should do. In previous clubs, training was never so intense, but I pushed myself harder so that physically, tactically, I was always ready to play."
Ramires demonstrated his improvement by winning the stoppage-time penalty missed by Didier Drogba at White Hart Lane on Sunday.
"Didier is no villain for missing the penalty,' he said. "I think we deserved more than we got from that game but now we have to look forward, train hard and make sure we get the results that we want."