Frank Lampard eager to play down Marcelo Bielsa row on eve of meeting

By Nick Purewal, PA
·4 min read

Frank Lampard has moved to put his ‘spygate’ spat with Marcelo Bielsa to bed ahead of Chelsea’s Premier League clash with Leeds at Stamford Bridge.

Lampard and Bielsa will face off for the first time since the 2019 Championship play-offs, when Lampard’s Derby came from behind and beat Leeds 4-3 at the end of a turbulent campaign.

Bielsa sent an intern to spy on Lampard’s Derby in training in January 2019, with the Argentinian later paying an EFL fine of £200,000.

Lampard insisted he would rather quit than emulate Bielsa’s subterfuge, with the Leeds boss eventually accepting such practices are not acceptable in the English game.

Bielsa stirred the pot however by delivering an hour-long PowerPoint presentation press conference, detailing how to analyse opponents in such depth as he had Derby.

With no little rancour between the two managers in their Championship exchanges, many had anticipated a frostiness between the pair – but Lampard has joined Bielsa in attempting to dampen down any talk of a lingering feud.

“It’s in the past, I’m certainly not going to dwell on it going into this game,” said Lampard.

“I’d rather dwell on the respect I have for him as a coach. It was a great news story, it had a lot to it, and now it’s gone.

“And again I just look at him and how well he did, he brought Leeds up the year after.

Marcelo Bielsa brought Leeds up as champions
Marcelo Bielsa brought Leeds up as champions (Tim Goode/PA)

“They were probably the strongest Championship team the year we played them at Derby, so it was a very proud moment for myself actually to go up against him and win that game.

“But it’s a game long gone now, and they are now a team in great form.

“So I just see the football side of it now. I’m absolutely not concerned about what lessons he’s learned or not. Honestly, I’m definitely not going to hang on it for this game.

“It’s long gone. I respect him, I respect Leeds. I’m only concerned with us being right tomorrow for the match.”

Olivier Giroud’s stunning four-goal haul in Wednesday’s 4-0 Champions League romp at Sevilla heaps the pressure on Lampard to start the France striker for the first time this season in the Premier League in Saturday’s Leeds clash.

Giroud knows he must push for as much football as possible ahead of next summer’s European Championships to cement his France position.

Lampard has backed Giroud to keep himself in regular action at Chelsea, but conceded he cannot guarantee match time for anyone in his talent-laden squad.

“I don’t think it’s a case of giving any player assurances of game time,” said Lampard.

“I think with the competitive squad we have that’s very difficult to do.

“All you want is the players when they are out of the team to train well, get themselves in the team and perform like Oli did the other day.

“And of course that gives me nice problems as such. Oli’s always done that for me here, I think particularly in the back-end of last season he played as regularly as he’s played at Chelsea in my time at the club, particularly in restart.

“He was fundamental in us managing to get the Champions League spots.

“So I’m happy with him, he gives me a really nice problem, his form’s good, he’s training well. I’m obviously not going to give my team selection up today.”

Asked if Giroud is content with his situation, Lampard continued: “I can’t answer that for Oli, I can’t.

“All I can say from my point of view, in that forward area I have competition for places.

“Tammy Abraham has been been playing very well for us this season, scoring goals and making assists.

“He brings attributes, Olivier as he showed the other night brings his attributes, so that’s great competition for me.

“I can’t give assurances, and you’d have to ask Oli. I never see anything negative from Oli, and I’ve got huge respect for him.

“And playing the way he did the other night clearly he’s going to have opportunities, because that was just a top-class performance all-round.”