Frank Lampard said Chelsea’s transfer embargo did not force him to play red-hot young forward Tammy Abraham, who is set for his Champions League debut on Tuesday after surging to the top of the Premier League goalscoring charts.

Abraham, 21, hit a hat-trick against Wolves on Saturday to take his league tally to seven for the season, level with Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero, ahead of Valencia’s visit to Stamford Bridge.

With Chelsea currently banned from bringing in new players, Lampard has relied heavily on Abraham and fellow youngsters Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori.

But the Blues boss said he always believed the time was right for Abraham, who had spells on loan with Bristol City, Swansea and Aston Villa, to be handed his chance with Chelsea this term.

“I never had clear expectations for him, only the fact that I believed in him and trusted in him,” Lampard told reporters on Monday.

“I know a lot has been made about the ban giving young players opportunities but I felt the time was right for Tammy to have his opportunity at this club anyway, because of the quality he has got.

“I’m really delighted that he has got his goals. I think there’s even more to come.

“He’s in a good place, a place that just requires him to sustain and improve even more and I think with his mentality and the way he is every day I hope to see that.”

Abraham will likely start against Valencia on what will be Lampard’s first Champions League match as manager.

Lampard, who lifted the Champions League as a Chelsea player in 2012, said: “I’ll be proud to do it. I had multiple incredible nights in the Champions League — and some bad ones — and it is the ultimate in club football for me.”

Chelsea face a Valencia side in a certain amount of disarray with the players currently refusing to talk to the media in protest at last week’s sacking of popular manager Marcelino, despite winning the Copa del Rey and securing Champions League football last season.

Instead, former Real Madrid assistant Albert Celades will be in the Spanish club’s dug-out.

“I’m aware of what’s going on, but at the same time it doesn’t affect our approach,” said Lampard.

“We are going up against a quality team. But in my experience of moments like this, when there is an issue as collective, as a team, as a group against the media or the outside world, generally it makes the group tighter.

“Sometimes it can be a positive as much as a negative on the pitch.”

Valencia boss Celades insisted his players are still committed to the cause despite their dismal start.

A 5-2 defeat in Celades’ first match in charge, against Barcelona at the weekend, did little to improve morale.

And the 43-year-old duly took press conference duties alone on Monday as the players continued their boycott of the media.

“Obviously it’s not an ideal situation but it’s the players’ decision, really. I don’t have much more to say about that. There isn’t anything I can do about it,” Celades said.

“I speak to the players every day. They took this decision but there is always dialogue. The reaction I’ve had has been very good and I’m sure it will continue to improve.

“The spirit is very good. Tuesday is the start of the best club competition in Europe and that is ample motivation for the players to give their best.

“They want to play, taste the atmosphere. and be in the starting XI. No-one wants to miss out and that, for me, is the most important thing.”

Source: AFP