AVB dismisses Lampard speculation

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Andre Villas-Boas has insisted he cannot understand how Frank Lampard's reduced role at Chelsea has sparked speculation about the midfielder's future.

Lampard has started three of the last four matches on the bench and was substituted in the other, giving further ammunition to those who believe the 33-year-old's powers are on the wane. But Blues boss Villas-Boas does not see why there should be such a furore about the midfielder's lack of recent match action.

"It's 26 players competing for 11 starts, so what is the dramatic thing?" Villas-Boas said. "What is the dramatic thing about choices?"

Lampard, who once set a Premier League record for consecutive outfield appearances, has certainly been rested by Villas-Boas of late, either as part of a squad rotation policy or in order to preserve his ageing legs for the bigger games.

In either case, that should mean he starts Wednesday night's Champions League Group E clash at Valencia but, should he not do, speculation about his future will reach fever pitch. Yet, Villas-Boas - who refused to confirm whether the midfielder would be in his XI - insisted that would be completely unjustified.

In a pre-match press conference on Tuesday night that veered from tension to levity, the Chelsea boss branded most questions about Lampard as "negative", adding: "I think I've answered that question enough."

Asked what he particularly took issue with, the Portuguese added: "The fact that these players are 'changing' and that they are 'out' and then they are 'in' and, 'What is the problem with this player?' and, 'How is he going to react to a different situation?'

"I don't see things like that. We all see things in the dressing room as team objectives and collective objectives, nothing else."

One player who looks certain to start this evening is Juan Mata, who returns to his former club barely a month after joining Chelsea. If the winger had any fears about what kind of reception he would get on his return to Valencia, they were allayed yesterday after he was mobbed at the city's airport.

The 23-year-old was treated to a hero's welcome after touching down in Spain. Villas-Boas was unconcerned about how Mata would react, saying: "Different players react differently when coming back home or coming back to an emotional place."

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