Frank Lampard has piled praise on “amazing” captain Cesar Azpilicueta, saying he sets the standard at Chelsea.
Azpilicueta has featured at right-back, left-back and in central defence this term. The player has rarely let anyone down either, with Lampard’s side securing a top-four finish and Champions League qualification.
The 30-year-old will now lead Chelsea into Saturday’s FA Cup final against Arsenal. Azpilicueta will be seeking a seventh major winners’ medal with the Blues.
Lampard has leaned on the versatile Spain defender’s adaptability and leadership all season. He also paid tribute to the former Marseille man’s pivotal impact in west London.
“To coach and manage a player you have played with is a very different situation, but it has been easy with Azpi because of the way he has been,” said Lampard.
“His level of performance and impact on the group as captain, I can’t understate it. It has been amazing.
“His performances for a huge part of the season, his attitude, his application every single day. It is an absolute standard for any young player.
“He is an epitome of the club. The unfortunate thing for us, and everyone, is that we don’t have our fans in the stadium.
“Because when you have a player like Azpi, he is the one fans look at and say ‘look at that, that’s how we feel about Chelsea Football Club’. He is that, and he is a captain for that reason.”
Kante still a Chelsea doubt
Chelsea will hope N’Golo Kante can shake off any lingering effects of his hamstring problem to be fit for Saturday’s Wembley battle.
The France World Cup-winning midfielder returned to full training last week, but was not deemed quite ready for Sunday’s final Premier League clash with Wolves.
A return for Kante would boost Lampard’s options at the base of midfield, with Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic having worked in tandem in recent weeks.
Brazil forward Willian will be another doubt for the Blues, having missed the weekend’s 2-0 win over Wolves with a late ankle problem.
Willian could yet be playing in his last game for the Blues, with his agent delivering this update on his future.
Despite sealing a top-four place, Lampard wishes he could have done so in front of their fans.
With the FA Cup final to be held behind closed doors too, Lampard took a moment to thank the Blues supporters for sticking with him in his maiden campaign at the helm.
“Not having the fans here, it’s important for me to say that it was a moment I would have loved to enjoy with the fans at the end. We have been very together this year,” said Lampard.
“The support of the fans at difficult times and inconsistencies have been huge.
“I want thank them from afar. The achievement of reaching the top four is for them, and we look forward to having them back.”