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Chelsea's Lampard hails defensive improvement but says no time to relax

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Champions League - Group E - Chelsea v Sevilla - Stamford Bridge, London, Britain - October 20, 2020 Chelsea manager Frank Lampard Pool via REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo

(Reuters) - Chelsea manager Frank Lampard praised the team’s collective effort to shore up their defence but said players must guard against complacency when they host Sheffield United in the Premier League on Saturday.

Lampard’s side leaked nine goals in their opening five league games but have since kept five straight clean sheets in all competitions, which included a goalless league draw at Manchester United and a 3-0 win over Stade Rennais in the Champions League.

“There’s always different parts to it,” Lampard told a news conference on Friday. “Individuals have made good performances in that period. The collective is a reflection of that.

“It’s driven by the players, always will be. We must never relax. It’s such an important part of the game.”

Lampard said Chelsea have found a fresh balance in the team with new signings Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech being among the goals in their last three victories.

“There’s a versatility in the way new players play,” Lampard added. “We had a slight change in formation and the 4-3-3 worked well recently.”

Lampard confirmed winger Christian Pulisic remains unavailable for the game at Stamford Bridge due to a hamstring injury.

Midfielder Kai Havertz is ruled out as he self-isolates after a positive COVID-19 result, while goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga (shoulder) is available though the Spaniard is still feeling some pain, the manager added.

Chelsea are seventh in the league with 12 points from seven games, while Sheffield United are second-bottom after a winless start.

Reporting by Manasi Pathak in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis