Champions League - Lampard eyes finest hour
Fri, 18 May 15:56:00 2012
Speaking to the media in a wide-ranging interview this week, the man who will lead Chelsea out in the absence of the suspended John Terry also spoke of his memories of losing the 2008 final to Manchester United, and the challenge of facing a German club in the showpiece event.
Have you thought about this game a lot since the FA Cup final? Is it something you think about every minute of the day?
Not quite every minute of the day, but it has occupied my mind and I am sure everyone's mind because we have seen this season that we were pretty unfancied to get this far at different stages. On the way out to Napoli and then against Barcelona no one fancied us. It's not that we have surprised ourselves, but when you don't see it coming the fact that you are there is even more enjoyable in a way. Obviously you want to go and win it, but it has been a nice thought in the past couple of weeks.
What did you feel about the team's prospects when you were watching them getting turned over in Naples?
We were struggling. It took a big effort in the weeks between the two Napoli games to turn things around, but the home game was a massive turning point in our season - was the major turning point in our season.
Did you sense then that things might be changing?
A little bit. You know from experience that football can change in two seconds: you can go from the worst to the best in a second and the other way round quickly as well. That is the nature of the game. I think we always knew we had the quality. It was disappointing because we were losing points in the league as well at that point but we knew we were better than that and it took a big effort from everyone at the club: the staff, the players, we all had to improve at that stage.
You have taken that on yourself as well, haven't you? You have become instrumental in how things have turned around so quickly in the group...
Yeah, I have been back in playing more regularly and I feel better. I am enjoying my football again more and I think everybody here would say the same. Didier [Drogba] has been absolutely huge in that run as well because of the important goals he has scored.
When you look at the history your team has had in the Champions League, does it feel like it is all building towards Sunday and a climax?
I don't know really. Not to write us off in future years, but there is no mistake: every year we get the same questions around the knockout stage. Is this the year? And every year we have failed them, we haven't done it. There is only destiny if you make it yourself and we are one step closer to making it. It does feel every year that we want to do it even more.
Drogba braced for final
In the circumstances, given the players who are missing, would it be the greatest achievement of the squad and the club to win?
For Chelsea it would be the best achievement, for sure. We have got four players out who played in our best performance of the season [away in Barcelona] so it would be a huge achievement. I think every step has been a huge achievement: the Barcelona games and the turnaround from Napoli were huge achievements for everybody, so if we were to finish and win it, I think it would certainly be Chelsea's best ever feat.
You have scored in a Champions League final and you have scored a penalty in a Champions League final shoot-out. You have been so close. Do you still think about that?
A little bit. Things move on, but I think about all my successes and failures and often the failures stick in your head as much as the successes. They are in your mind and you do move on but I have nice memories of Moscow. Obviously not the end memory but the occasion itself. So it would be nice to go back and win it this time.
With John Terry suspended you will be captain. How will you go about the role?
As I always do, and as I tried to be in Barcelona. I was probably more vocal in Barcelona than I have been ever, it was such a backs-to-the-wall situation. I will try and be vocal, I will try and play by example and I know the players and I have been here long enough. I will feel pride to take on the responsibility to try and lead a little bit. We have got leaders.
How big a challenge is it for your back four with the absence of John?
A huge challenge. They have fantastic talent up front. As I have said I have watched them a few times and at the weekend. It wasn't the greatest game for them, they lost, but you could see the talent Mario Gomez has as a player. He has been amazing with his all-round game and finishing and we know all about him.
If you don't win the match on Saturday you are not back in the competition next season. Does that add to the pressure and give it an extra dimension for you?
It is a sideshow; it is in the back of our minds. It certainly doesn't become the overall issue. I think the game in itself and what it means on the day is the first goal, but obviously for the club it becomes more prominent now we are out of the top four.
What do you think about facing a German club in the final?
I have huge respect for them. I grew up being frustrated by them as an England fan. You knew how tough they were in certain situations. I worked with Michael Ballack for a number of years and he was one of those players - you could probably take it the wrong way at times - who was so determined, so self-confident. The players in the team generally have that, the players from the past.
What do you have to do to beat Bayern Munich on Saturday?
It can only be a team effort at the same level that we have been putting in in the Champions League. The spirit we showed in Barcelona... hopefully we can have more of the ball - Barcelona dominated possession - but if we have that spirit then we have the ability in individuals to win the game.
Bayern are missing Luiz Gustavo in midfield due to suspension. How will that affect the game?
That remains to be seen. I watched them play against Dortmund at the weekend and Gustavo played. But in Schweinsteiger and Kroos they have two fantastic midfield players anyway. I can't speak highly enough about the pair of them actually; I have been very impressed with them this season. They play one behind the front man if they want to be more attacking, or they can have someone in the holding role. Either way it is going to be a battleground.
Do you think that having beaten Barcelona, you have already beaten probably the best team in the competition?
It certainly doesn't work that way. We've enjoyed the feeling of beating the best. Barcelona are the best team. I don't whether they are still or not but they have been the best team for a long time and we have enjoyed that. But we are clever enough to know that if we lose to Bayern people will quickly forget the semis and the quarters and the other games.