Frank Lampard believes that Manchester City’s successful appeal against their two-year European ban has no impact whatsoever on his Chelsea side’s ability to qualify for the Champions League because their fate remains in their own hands.
City successfully took their Uefa ban to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, who decided on Monday morning that the ban would be overturned and their €30m fine reduced to €10m.
The decision means that fifth place in the Premier League will no longer be enough to qualify for the Champions League next season as City will be allowed to take up their place – pending a possible Uefa appeal to the Swiss Federal Tribunal – which heaps the pressure on the likes of Leicester City, Manchester United, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Sheffield United and Lampard’s Chelsea.
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With three potential qualification places suddenly reduced to two, the remaining three rounds of the Premier League season – plus Monday night’s clash between United and Southampton – take on extra importance in deciding who will make Europe’s premier competition next season.
With that in mind, City’s successful appeal will come as a blow to one of those five clubs that ends up finishing fifth, but Lamard has challenged his side to take the uncertainty away from themselves by securing a top four finish.
“I was pretty neutral on it, I just listened to the verdict this morning,” Lampard said after the City announcement came to light on Monday.
“I genuinely don’t see beyond the games in hand, we have a few games and we want to win them and see if it gets us Champions League football. I was never pinning my hopes on (the verdict). If we win enough games, we can get in.”
Chelsea will be overtaken by United if they beat Southampton on Monday night, which would leave the Blues sitting in fourth place in the Premier League table just a point clear of Leicester with a vastly inferior goal difference. Both Wolves and Sheffield United are also still in touching distance, but Lampard believes that with their own fate still in their hands after Leicester surprise humbling at Bournemouth, his players will not have given any thought to the prospect of an additional place bailing them out.
“We’re sitting third, it’s in our hands,” he added. “I wouldn’t have liked the players to have thought, ‘oh there’s an extra place, we can relax a little bit’.”
Chelsea will need to improve their form if they are to win their three remaining fixtures this season, having followed an unconvincing display in the 3-2 win over Crystal Palace with a comprehensive 3-0 defeat by Sheffield United last time out. However, they face already-relegated Norwich City on Tuesday, before their final fixtures against Premier League champions Liverpool and Wolves in two crucial games.