Chelsea boss Frank Lampard excited to see Hakim Ziyech debut

Lampard: "He's been fantastic in terms of his professionalism to get fit and looks really good in training"; Ziyech played 30 minutes as a substitute for Morocco in a friendly against Senegal last weekend; Lampard says Antonio Rudiger has same opportunity as every other player

Hakim Ziyech was injured during a pre-season friendly at Brighton 0:35
Chelsea head coach Frank Lampard says summer-signing Hakim Ziyech has 'looked really good' in training

Chelsea boss Frank Lampard says he is "excited" at the prospect of seeing summer-signing Hakim Ziyech make his debut against Southampton on Saturday.

Ziyech joined Chelsea from Ajax in a £33.3m deal but suffered a knee injury in a pre-season friendly at Brighton on August 29, which has prevented him from making his competitive debut.

The 27-year-old played 30 minutes as a substitute for Morocco in a friendly against Senegal last weekend, and is now in line to make a return to club action as Chelsea host Southampton.

"Hakim Ziyech is in the squad - not fit to start but fit to participate some minutes we hope," Lampard said in his pre-match press conference on Friday.

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Image: Zieych joined Chelsea from Ajax for £33.3m over the summer Picture credit: Chelsea FC

"We brought Hakim here and it feels like a long time ago now but he also has not played since the Dutch league finished during lockdown period.

"It's a long time and he's worked so hard. He's been fantastic in terms of his professionalism to get fit and looks really good in training.

"Just game minutes is what we need now but yes of course I'm excited to get him in and around it and to bring what we brought him to the club for, which is the opportunity to create chances for us, to be the talented player that he is."

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'Competition for places a nice problem'

Christian Pulisic made his first appearance of the season in Chelsea's last game before the international break
Image: Christian Pulisic made his first appearance of the season in Chelsea's last game before the international break

Lampard also welcomed the return to full fitness of another Chelsea's winger, Christian Pulisic, who is available to make his first start of the season having recovered from a hamstring injury.

Pulisic played seven minutes as a substitute in Chelsea's final game before the international break against Crystal Palace and has further built up his fitness levels since.

The duo's return creates intense competition for places in Chelsea's forward roles, with Mason Mount, Kai Havertz and Callum Hudson-Odoi also vying to play behind either Timo Werner, Tammy Abraham or Olivier Giroud up front.

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"Any team that wants to compete towards the top of the league, or Champions League, and playing in the FA Cup needs more than one player per position and needs to be competitive across the front area," Lampard said.

"We had it last year - we lost Willian, we lost Pedro, we lost (Michy) Batshuayi, - so we've brought in players that brings the same level of competition in terms of numbers and I feel like the quality levels and some of the options, of course you bring them in because you want to improve.

"It's up to the players, of course, it will always remain up to them in terms of their performance and at the same time gives me nice problems, in terms of we can hopefully be selecting players and we can use them through the season, we'll have options to come off the bench, so I'm happy with what some people might call a problem in that area."

'Rudiger has same opportunity as every other player'

There is also fierce competition for places at the other end of the pitch, with Chelsea having held on to all of their centre-backs before the transfer window closed.

Despite being fully fit, Antonio Rudiger failed to make an appearance for Chelsea before the international break amid speculation linking him with a move away from Stamford Bridge.

Antonio Rudiger started both of Germany's Nations League matches earlier in September
Image: Antonio Rudiger made three appearances for Germany during the international break

The 27-year-old played all three of Germany's matches during the break, and Lampard insists he as much chance as any other player in the squad of holding down a first-team place.

"Every player can play their way into the starting 11, the squad, that's in every players hands," Lampard said. "That's how I try and work here.

"So the players all know that and the beauty of the window now being shut is that we can get to work and know what the squad is.

"Everybody knows that they can contribute and we will need them and rely on them because of the amount of games we play and Toni is the same as every other player on that one."

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