Lampard: Di Matteo has different methods
Frank Lampard has suggested Roberto Di Matteo has dealt much better than Andre Villas-Boas with telling him that he has been left out of the Chelsea team. Blues star Lampard has lifted the lid on his relationship with caretaker boss Di Matteo and it appears to be in stark contrast to that he endured with sacked manager Villas-Boas.
Lampard admitted shortly before Villas-Boas' departure to having been at odds with the 34-year-old, who habitually omitted him from big games. Matters reportedly came to a head when Lampard was told he would not be starting February's UEFA Champions League match at Napoli.
Di Matteo, who has started Lampard in almost every game since taking charge, delivered similar news before last week's quarter-final win at Benfica. Asked if Di Matteo had taken a different approach to Villas-Boas, Lampard told BBC Radio Five Live: "Yes, that is fair to say. I spoke with Robbie and certainly had no issue with it. I was delighted to get the result we got. I came on in the last 20 minutes, anyway."
Di Matteo was reportedly not liked any more than Villas-Boas by the Chelsea squad while he was working as the Portuguese's assistant. But players have been queuing up to hail the former Blues midfielder for the way he has transformed their season and the fairness he has shown to each individual.
Lampard said: "The number one makes the decisions and he is revelling in making those decisions. He has kept it very simple. It's a case of getting a confidence and passion through the team and, in the results we've had, you'd say he has done that."
Villas-Boas seemed looking to phase out and replace older players at Stamford Bridge and asked if he had tried to change too much too soon, Lampard said: "It's hard to pinpoint things. I don't want to go too much over negatives.
"We didn't perform to a level, that's why the manager changed and us, as players, are not happy because you don't feel as proud as you should be when you know the squad we've got should be doing better.
"So the reasons are not quite clear but there's a lot to be said for having a confident squad. You have to have that to get the best out of all your players and I feel we are in a better position now than we were in the past."
Chelsea have won six of their eight matches under Di Matteo but are five points adrift of a top-four spot in the Premier League with only seven matches remaining. Lampard last week admitted the Blues were not as good as they used to be, but he believes they have enough quality to deny third-placed Arsenal or fourth-placed Tottenham a Champions League spot, either by overhauling them in the league or by ending their own agonising wait for European glory.
Speaking ahead of Saturday's win at Aston Villa, the 33-year-old said: "We have to fight on both levels. We certainly don't feel like all our eggs are in the European basket and the league just goes by. We have to be aware that Benfica at home is still to get through, then we will potentially face Barcelona or AC Milan in the semi-final and then we have the final.
"To win them all to try to confirm our Champions League status for next year, it is a risky card, albeit one well within our means. Where we are now in the table, we're disappointed to not be fighting for first or second but you have to understand that you can't have it your own way every year.
"Manchester United don't win the league every year but we have put ourselves under pressure for fourth spot and, if you're being honest about it, Arsenal and Tottenham are in the driving seat. So we really need to go on a stretch of winning games."
Di Matteo could decide to rest Lampard again for Wednesday's Champions League return match with Benfica, while Chelsea will continue to monitor the injured David Luiz (ankle) and Didier Drogba (foot).