LONDON • Pundits like Jermaine Jenas and Alan Shearer have dismissed Chelsea's chances of a top-four finish in the Premier League due to their two-window transfer ban imposed by Fifa, but Frank Lampard is "loving" the opportunity to stick it to their critics as their season gets under way tomorrow.
At his press conference yesterday ahead of their visit to Manchester United, the Blues legend, who was appointed last month from Derby, insisted his squad had "remained competitive" despite an inability to sign new players.
He said: "I love hearing predictions when we're not in the top four and there isn't anything better than proving people wrong.
"With the ban, it has been easy to write off this squad, and I don't write off this squad at all. What is important is that you have a target within the group. What matters is how we approach things. We will see how we go.
"Manchester City and Liverpool showed there was a gap, everyone has to make it up. We will aim to win and of course, we want to be in the Champions League every year. We are realistic and we just have to work our hardest.
"Yes, (the gap is bridgeable) because this is football. One of the beauties is that you start again fresh."
Lampard, the club's all-time record goal-scorer with 211 goals from 648 appearances, became a first-team regular under Claudio Ranieri when the then 23-year-old arrived at Stamford Bridge in 2001.
Having been the beneficiary of a manager's trust at a young age, he is willing to put his faith in Chelsea's academy products.
Declaring that he was aware of "the talent they have", Lampard said of England Under-21 pair Tammy Abraham and Mason Mount: "I love them as lads as they bring enthusiasm and quality.
"In that (group), I include (Reece) James and (Fikayo) Tomori, and with (Christian) Pulisic coming in.
"Youth isn't everything, but I am expectant of what they can do."
TRUST IN YOUTH
I understand the position we are in with the ban. It brings up different possibilities, albeit it's tough in a way, it's also an opportunity for the young lads to prove that they are good enough to get into the first team.
FRANK LAMPARD, Chelsea manager, on the young talent at his disposal following the two-window transfer ban by Fifa.
He also told BBC Radio 5 Live that having worked with midfielder Mount and defender Tomori when they were on loan at Derby last season, their qualities would be evident this campaign.
"Last year was a great experience working with them because they are hungry, they want to learn, they ask questions on the training pitch and I love that," he said.
"I understand the position we are in with the ban. It brings up different possibilities, albeit it's tough in a way, it's also an opportunity for the young lads to prove that they are good enough to get into the first team.
"I want us to win, so it won't be all about how many young players I can get in the team.
"But if they show themselves in training, I will have no fear in putting them in."