x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Drogba return key for Lampard

Frank Lampard beileves that the return of a fit Dider Drogba will be a massive boost to their title ambitions and will save them searching for a replacement.

Dider Drogba's return to fitness could be the key as the title race hots up between Chelsea and Liverpool.
Dider Drogba's return to fitness could be the key as the title race hots up between Chelsea and Liverpool.

Didier Drogba's return to form will not only save Chelsea a fortune in the January transfer window but could also be the key to a successful title challenge in 2009 as they prepare to face Fulham. That is the view of teammate Frank Lampard, who was happy to welcome Drogba back into the side after the striker had been left on the bench for six games in a row by Luiz Felipe Scolari despite recovering from injury. And he rewarded his manager with a goal in the 2-0 win against West Brom.

The Ivory Coast international hopes to keep his place for today's game and could potentially save the manager Scolari millions in the transfer market, money that owner Roman Abramovich seems reluctant to spend. "Didier has a huge presence as a player," said midfielder Lampard, who also scored against West Brom. "He was unfit for a while but now he is fit and he will worry defenders. Do we need another striker in January? Well, we've got the top scorer in the Premier League in [Nicolas] Anelka and also Drogba who is one of the best strikers in the world - so if those two are fit and firing we'll be very happy and we'll be OK. Whether we bring in another striker will be down to the club."

Drogba's return to scoring action has certainly quashed any talk of a crisis at Chelsea, who go into today's game only a point behind leaders Liverpool. "We have taken a lot of flak but we can't be bothered by it, we must be inspired by it and show it on the pitch," added Lampard. "We believe we'll win the title but I bet Liverpool do, Man Utd do and Arsenal do. You have to have that belief or you have no chance.

The Fulham midfielder Jimmy Bullard has a dead leg and will be assessed today. The West Ham manager Gianfranco Zola reiterated his desire to keep hold of Craig Bellamy in the transfer window after the striker scored twice in Friday's 4-1 destruction of Portsmouth. Tottenham are reported to have made a bid for Bellamy, but Zola, whose team host Stoke today, said: "As far as I'm concerned, he's our player. It's as simple as that. He's a very important player."

Striker Kevin Davies can expect to return to Bolton's front line at home to Wigan today, having been left on the bench for the Boxing Day defeat at Liverpool. sports@thenational.ae