Frank Lampard has confirmed the Chelsea team news ahead of facing Brighton & Hove Albion in the Premier League.
Chelsea welcome the Seagulls, who are looking to complete the league double over the Blues, to Stamford Bridge on Saturday afternoon.
The Blues are currently 11th and without a win in their last five matches in all competitions, while Brighton lost last time out to Spurs in a controversial 2-1 defeat.
Lampard is set to make changes and hand opportunities to several fringe players as he freshens the squad up ahead of their second leg Champions League quarter-final clash against Real Madrid on Tuesday.
“Tomorrow (Saturday) will be an opportunity for some players who didn’t play in the Champions League,” Lampard told reporters, “possibly didn’t play at the weekend, to come in because it’s a game where we absolutely need freshness and energy as well, so every opportunity they should take.”
Here is the latest Chelsea team news to face Brighton in the Premier League:
Edouard Mendy & Kepa Arrizabalaga
Lampard confirmed Kepa will retain his place in goal despite Mendy now being availability.
The Chelsea caretaker boss confirmed: “I don’t see any reason to do anything different at the moment. Kepa’s performances and maturity naturally, I maybe matured as a coach as I’ve come back, he’s matured as a player and I think he has been in good form.
“Edou has had a couple of injuries. He’s still carrying a small one at the moment so the position as you see it doesn’t change and not judging anything on my previous time at the club as opposed to what’s in front of me now.”
The 31-year-old has been ruled out for a number of weeks with a hamstring injury sustained against Real Madrid on Wednesday night in the Champions League at the Bernabeu.
Lampard confirmed: “No, he won’t be available for either game (vs Brighton and Real Madrid). Hamstring injury. It will be a matter of weeks rather than days.”
He added: “He’s a very good, very experienced player. Albeit people talk a lot about our squad, when you haven’t got lots of cover in certain times and a Champions League squad that’s different to the Premier League squad, of course it’s a disappointment for him and us.
“But (it’s) an opportunity (for others) and we carry on without him and hopefully he gets fit as quick as he can.”
Lampard is having to manage the Frenchman’s minutes after a long-awaited return to action from a hamstring injury sustained in August, which saw Kante undergo surgery last year.
He is set to be in the squad once again, however with Lampard making changes, it could see Kante earn a rest ahead of the midweek Champions League clash.
“Having worked with N’Golo before, he’s an incredible player, one of the best I’ve been fortunate enough to work with. I know the positives of having him and the negatives of not, because in my first season here we missed him for some big periods. As an individual player his impact is very clear.
“Off the back of a four-month injury we have to manage him at the same time, because when you have N’Golo fit he’s clearly one of the best midfield players in the world.
“I think you see in his performances in Madrid and against Liverpool last week that, having just come back from injury, he’s not slowing down. When he plays he always offers massive output and massive quality.”
The 24-year-old is slowly making his way back to full fitness following a bruised pelvis. He featured against Real Madrid in the second half on Wednesday and Lampard has confirmed his plans for the midfielder.
The Chelsea boss revealed: “He’s had his small injury problem. He felt okay in the game the other day. I thought he did as good a job as he could with him and Conor (Gallagher) coming in to help us close out a game with 10 men. I think there’s a little process over the next game or two of getting Mason to where we want him to be. Fingers crossed the injury’s fine.”
The 33-year-old has only scored three goals from his 19 appearances for Chelsea this season and needed to remain patient for his chances under Graham Potter and now caretaker Frank Lampard.
After being left out of the Champions League knockout squad, Aubameyang is pushing to start and Lampard hinted he could get a chance sooner rather than later as Chelsea look to end their drought of four games in a row without a goal.
“We’ll see in that one,” responded Lampard, when asked if Aubameyang can be the number nine he needs between now and the end of the season.
“I don’t want to go position specific. What I do want to say is, the players have to feel when they train and when they turn up for training and how they prepare, the competitive nature in the squad to get a place in the team needs to be high in every position.
“Auba is a bit like everyone in the squad, starting before or not starting so much, everyone needs to compete in training and show they’re worthy of their place. History says he has a fantastic goalscoring record. So, we’ll see.”