Lamps aware of derby importance
Frank Lampard admits Chelsea must come out on top in Sunday's west London derby against QPR if they are to keep alive their title hopes.
Last year proved to be one of the most tumultuous of Chelsea's history, with the sacking of two managers and the lifting of one Champions League trophy the most notable stand-out points from a rollercoaster 12 months.
Despite the drama earlier in the year, Chelsea ended 2012 looking as settled as they have done in recent times. Having racked up four successive wins to put them within 11 points of leaders Manchester United with a match in hand, there is now talk among the Chelsea squad of launching a title assault that would have seemed improbable at best two months ago.
And given that United are masters of closing out the title in the second half of the season, Lampard knows he and his team-mates must continue bringing home the points - starting with tomorrow's potentially feisty derby against bottom side QPR - if they are to keep the Red Devils in sight.
"We do (have to win these games)," Lampard told Chelsea TV.
"That's the position we put ourselves in, because we had that funny run through November and December.
"We were top and all of a sudden we are adrift but you can't look back at that. We have to be positive now.
"We need to put a long winning run together. We have started doing that in recent weeks." Lampard has seen recent signs that indicate Chelsea's resurgence will not be temporary.
The way they put eight past Aston Villa is an obvious sign that Chelsea are back to their best going forward, but Lampard has also noted an improvement in team unity that many felt was absent under previous managers.
"For me the biggest change is in our attitude," he said.
"We go in to games with the desire not just to pass and move the ball around. "The attitude is to get close, to work hard for your team-mates and to have a spirit about you.
"If we have that then we can do what we want."
Lampard moved one behind Kerry Dixon in to second in Chelsea's all-time scorer list last weekend when struck twice to sink Everton.
But to the astonishment of many, Lampard is yet to be offered a new contract.
From today Lampard will be free to speak to any foreign teams - such as reported suitors the Los Angeles Galaxy - and as things stand he will leave the club he has spent 11 and a half years at in six months' time.
Lampard has been playing at the top of his game since Rafael Benitez was appointed as interim manager, and the 34-year-old wants the Spaniard to keep the faith in him for the remainder of the campaign.
"I need to play to go on a (scoring) run," he said.
"There is a squad and you must respect that, but I'm the same as anyone - when you I get on a run in the team I get more confidence and I score goals.
"The manager has played me generally since I have been fit to be fair to him.
"If I can contribute to games and keep fit I will be more than happy."
Chelsea will again be without captain John Terry for tomorrow's game as he continues to struggle with his comeback from a knee injury.
The Blues are also without goalkeeper Petr Cech, who came off at half-time during Sunday's 2-1 win over Everton with an adductor injury.
Ross Turnbull has only started four league games since he signed from Middlesbrough in 2009, but Chelsea defender Gary Cahill is confident the 27-year-old is an able deputy.
He said: "Ross hasn't played many games in such a long time but he came in and looked like he had being playing regularly, so we have a top keeper to come in."