Frank Lampard urged Chelsea’s players to show “personal pride” and finish the season strongly as the club target Mauricio Pochettino to become their new head coach.
Injuries are set to keep Reece James and Mason Mount out of action for the rest of the season, Lampard revealed on Tuesday.
The loss of the England internationals comes as the latest blow in a wretched season for the club that has seen two head coaches, Thomas Tuchel and Graham Potter, lose their jobs.
Interim boss Lampard could also be replaced before the campaign ends, having overseen four defeats in four games since the club legend was asked to lead the team.
With Pochettino a firm contender to take charge, there may be a new man at the helm in the coming days or weeks.
What seems nigh-on certain is that Lampard will lead Chelsea in Wednesday’s home game against fellow west London outfit Brentford.
The Bees are remarkably five points ahead of the wealthy Blues ahead of that fixture, and Lampard wants to see battling spirit from his 11th-placed side.
He broke the dismal news of the fresh injury setbacks at the beginning of Tuesday’s pre-match press conference, saying: “Reece James is unavailable probably for the season, Mason Mount the same – potential for the last game of the season but probably not – so that’s obviously disappointing for us.
“They’re big players. Reece has a hamstring injury and Mason has been carrying this pelvic injury for quite a while. He’s been trying typically, and medical staff have been trying, but we’ve got to the stage now where he will have minor surgery and then a four-week recovery.”
Asked about the potential arrival of former Tottenham and Paris Saint-Germain boss Pochettino, Lampard said: “I’m not going to get involved in any future manager talk, because it’s all speculation.”
Lampard is unsure whether his short-term position will soon be affected by the club’s efforts to appoint a coach, or whether he will continue to lead the team until the end of the season.
“I wouldn’t expect anything in football, but I think it’s very clear we’ve come into this club when it’s in big difficulties,” Lampard said.
He vowed he and his coaching staff would continue to try to draw the best from the expensively assembled Chelsea squad and called on the players to raise their games.
Two Champions League losses to Real Madrid and Premier League defeats to Wolves and Brighton have made it a disappointing start for Lampard.
“I have a big link to this club and pride, and so should the players,” Lampard said, when asked whether Chelsea’s season was effectively over.
“If you want to take it down your route, it’s over, but on my route it’s absolutely not over.
“I don’t have a mentality that there’s nothing to play for. I was fortunate to be a part of teams that were challenging normally for stuff towards the end of the season, but that’s not a given. It’s important that if you have a long career you won’t compete absolutely every season, it’s not a given.
“It comes down to your personal pride, responsibility, wearing the shirt. We’ve got seven games, four against the top four, three away from home.
“The run-in’s really tough, there’s no doubt about that. There’s always something on those games. I understand that and the players have to understand that.”