Pluses and minuses for Lampard to ponder ahead of Chelsea v Liverpool
Chelsea's return to the Champions League, after last year's successful time-out in the Europa League, ended in disappointment as Valencia stole the points with a 1-0 win.
It was not what Frank Lampard was hoping for on his return to the competition he famously won in Munich in 2012. Here are some talking points from the night.
Fikayo Tomori is going to be great
The young defender made an outstanding first impression in the competition. He was sharp in sensing danger and snuffing it out – closing down on Kevin Gameiro whenever the French striker threatened and making a succession of well-timed challenges. Won a penalty for the Blues with a header in the opposition area and was not afraid to take on opponents in the deck as he attacked Valencia's box in the first half. Although Kurt Zouma has the greater experience, the calm assurance Tomori displayed was a huge plus point which went some way towards making up for the loss.
Mason Mount's time will come in Europe
The midfielder looked crestfallen when he had to leave the fray very early on after having Francis Coquelin's studs implanted in his ankle. He has been in excellent form and was looking forward to testing himself on the supreme club stage. The signs were already promising before he had to concede it was an injury he could not run off. Hopefully the damage was not so severe that it will keep him out for long. Blues fans are relishing the young blood in the ranks and Mount's elevation to the England squad underlines what an exciting talent they have on their hands.
Ross Barkley deserves a break from fans
There seemed to be many making their way from Stamford Bridge after the match who were unhappy that Barkley insisted on taking the penalty which could have saved a point. But the former Everton man was the designated taker, as Frank Lampard confirmed in his post-match briefing. That said, it is never a good look to see players squabbling over who should be taking the kick and probably undermines the confidence of the taker. But it might also worth revisiting the strategy because it is often difficult for a player just on as a sub to have the required sharpness for such a key moment in the game. Barkley had only been on seven or eight minutes when he was called upon to save the day. As Jorginho would have been the taker had Barkley not come on, it might have made sense to let the Brazilian have the honours.
Did Frank get the right subs on?
Lampard insists Christian Pulisic remains very much in his plans for the Champions League, but the American did not feature against Valencia, even though he has started the season well and might have made a difference when the Blues were chasing victory. Lampard reshaped his team in pursuit of three points, with Olivier Giroud replacing Kurt Zouma on 73 minutes and the team switching to a back four and they trailed almost immediately. Barkley came on for Mateo Kovacic and it could be argued it almost paid off. There are always fine margins and hindsight colouring an inexact science, but it will be interesting to see who he comes to trust off the bench and whether he experiments more with changes in formation and personnel than Maurizio Sarri did last year.
Are Chelsea in good shape for Liverpool?
Sunday's clash with the Champions League winners is the second of the campaign. The Reds brought out the best in Lampard's men when they met in Istanbul in the Super Cup last month. The Blues did have N'Golo Kante available then, though, and he was missed against the Spaniards. If he is absent again, it will be a blow. Chelsea should be confident after putting five past Wolves last week but Liverpool have started the domestic season impeccably, even if they lost 2-0 to Napoli in midweek. “We're waiting for a very tough match, but the sort of game we’re here for.” Lampard said. “They’re playing so well at the minute. They’re the best team in the country on form, so it’s a great test for us and we need to be ready for it."