Lampard backed by Benitez

Rafael Benitez believes Frank Lampard is capable of playing at the highest level up to and including the World Cup.

Last Updated: 10/02/13 at 23:11 Post Comment   

Frank Lampard: In great form for Chelsea

Frank Lampard: In great form for Chelsea

The 34-year-old's future is clouded in uncertainty, with contradictory reports over whether Chelsea are prepared to offer him a contract to extend his 12-year stay at Stamford Bridge beyond the end of the season.

Lampard, who again showed his value to the Blues with the third goal in a 4-1 Barclays Premier League win over Wigan, has no shortage of admirers and offers are sure to follow if he does leave Stamford Bridge.

Benitez would not be drawn on Lampard's Chelsea future, but, asked if the midfielder could feature in Brazil, the interim Blues boss said: "Yes, I think so.

"He is a good professional. If he has no injuries he can still play at a good level."

Lampard, who is 35 in June, has scored nine goals in his last 14 matches for Chelsea to move within four of Bobby Tambling's club record of 202.

He also netted the decisive strike in England's 2-1 defeat of Brazil - his 27th international goal in his 94th appearance.

Benitez believes David Luiz, who captained Brazil at Wembley, moving into midfield has given Lampard the opportunity to influence games in attack.

"When he (Lampard) has a holding midfielder it's easier for him to go forward," Benitez added.

"David Luiz can give you balance in the middle. He understands the role.

"He knows Lampard and Ramires are players who like to go forward, so to have a player like Luiz who can stay in the middle is important for him and also for the centre-backs because they are more protected.

"His quality in possession is really good. He's a player that can see the game and pass the ball with pace. "He can still improve his shooting - but he is doing well."

Luiz and Fernando Torres combined for the opening goal, scored by Ramires, who spent the day rampaging down the right.

That flank also proved fruitful for the impressive Cesar Azpilicueta.

Azpilicueta made his debut for Spain last Wednesday, but World Cup winner Torres was left out of the squad for the Uruguay friendly in Qatar.

Benitez thinks Torres benefited from the rest, despite spurning two good chances to score against Wigan.

"He looked sharp," Benitez said.

"He was very influential also in our attack. He was very unlucky at the end because it was good save by the keeper. He did a good job for the team."

With Demba Ba ineligible, Torres will lead the line once more in Thursday's Europa League clash at Sparta Prague.

John Terry missed the Wigan clash with a knee injury and his state of fitness is uncertain ahead of a key period for Chelsea.

Two matches with Sparta Prague are either side of a FA Cup fourth-round replay with Brentford before a Premier League clash with Manchester City, who are four points ahead of the Blues in second place.

Wigan's concerns are at the other end of the table.

The Latics last season won once in 14 games between December and March before winning seven of their last nine to stay up. Martinez's men have this term now won once in 13.

"The key is that we have been in this situation time after time, three seasons now," Martinez said.

"We know what we have to do and how we have to play in the last third of the season.

"But the most important thing is to have everyone back and have a real competitive edge in the squad so as a player you are thinking about keeping your place and keeping your standards up.

"It's impossible to say how many [points] it is going to take because there are so many games among the clubs down there. "I do think QPR are going to get out of the position they are in, Aston Villa are capable of getting out of it."

It is a challenge which energises Martinez.

"We go into the last third of the season with our aim being staying in this league and that is a phenomenal position to be in as Wigan Athletic," he said.

"I don't see it as a pressure position, I see it is a really exciting challenge, even if I want to be better every season and challenge for bigger and better positions."


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