Frank Lampard fears the Barclays Premier League title may be out of Chelsea’s reach this season.
Guus Hiddink, in charge of the Blues until the summer, has given the side a new lease of life, with three wins on the bounce in the league moving them into second place and within seven points of leaders Manchester United.
However, United – on a run of 11 successive Premier League victories and with a game in hand over their rivals – look unstoppable at the moment and few would bet against them clinching another title.
Lampard insists Chelsea will not give up the chase but admits second place may be the best they can hope for.
“Our results since the arrival of Hiddink, especially the important victories against Aston Villa and Wigan, have put us back on the rails but there is still work to do,” the England international told Aujourd’hui Sport.
“The title is very probably settled, even if we intend to fight all the way. There is no question of us giving the crown to Manchester United and we are going to believe until it is mathematically impossible.
“And then we will do everything to assure ourselves of second place, which would qualify us automatically for the Champions League next season.”
Chelsea turned to the experienced Hiddink after sacking Luiz Felipe Scolari last month and the team’s results have improved immediately.
Lampard has showered the 62-year-old with praise.
“Our performances have been disappointing too many times this season but the new coach has given us a boost,” Lampard added.
“He gives off something. Respect, of course, but also a certain aura.
“All the great coaches I have worked with have that fear factor about them and Hiddink is one of those.
“He is a great coach who has experience at great clubs and at international level and someone who has also picked up good results in all his posts.
“Recently, we have found our old spirit. We have seen in our last two or three matches that our determination and fighting qualities have returned.
“Guus always says the right thing. He knows what needs to be said and when. He is class.”
Hiddink has been happy to partner Nicolas Anelka and Didier Drogba together up front, something Scolari was not prepared to do.
The two strikers are starting to hit it off and Drogba looks more like his old self after getting his fitness back following a knee injury that ruined the early part of his campaign.
But it is Anelka who has really stolen the headlines this season, according to Lampard.
“Nico is so dangerous,” Lampard said.
“When he is on top form, he is world class, as he has demonstrated several times this season already.”