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  • by Yann Tear

Lampard says League Cup exit is only minor blow to Chelsea's wider ambitions

Frank Lampard admits bowing out of the League Cup at the fourth round stage does not feel like a major blow because, he says, the league and Europe are more important to Chelsea.

The Blues were far from their best against Manchester United on Wednesday night and an under-strength side was unable to build on seven wins in a row going into the tie.

Michy Batshuayi bagged his fifth goal of the season with a fine solo effort, but a Marcus Rashford double – the second a stunning free-kick, eased United into the quarter-finals.

“Let’s get it right,” said Chelsea’s head coach. “We’ve had seven wins on the trot and we’ve had taxing games in the Champions League.

“It’s important for us as a club and we want to get to the next stage of that. Our form in the league’s been really good and I think it’s quite clear that they’re the priorities.

“We want to win football matches and we want to give everything, but I have to look at my squad and people that deserve minutes : young players that are going to be big players in the bigger picture for us [need] to get minutes and I think the competition [league cup] has an element of that for us.”

Lampard added: “I think we weren’t at our best, We were a little bit slow with our passing in the first half and I think when a team comes – as Newcastle also did here – with five and two in front and a discipline, and organisation, if you don’t break the lines if you don’t mix your game a bit more, it’s tough.

“But I saw a lot of things out there today, although we didn’t go through, that were good for us for the future – a lot of positives. Maybe not as many positives as some of the recent league games but positive things about us.

“I hate losing. We all do here. But I think it’s clear that there’s a bigger picture with a lot of games to come and a busy fixture list, so now we just move on and focus on what’s in front.”

One of those positives was the fine run from half way and powerful finish from Batshuayi, which raised hopes of a Blues win.

“I thought the outstanding moment of the game from our point of view was Michy’s goal in terms of individual endeavour, skill, strength, pace and finish,” Lampard said.

“Michy’s been really good for us this season. His attitude, his professionalism in training. It’s not easy when another striker’s scoring and you’re not getting involved much, but every time he’s started in the cup games, every time he’s come on, he’s shown stuff and he showed something with the goal today.”

Lampard inevitably made changes from his usual strongest XI, resting Tammy Abraham, for instance, who only came on as a late sub.

But he admitted he would have liked to rest Jorginho and Matteo Kovacic, having been prevented from doing so because of injuries to N’Golo Kante, Ross Barkley and Ruben Loftus-Cheek. Kante should be back in training this week, at least.

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