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Lampard, Ivanovic rested for Sparta tie
Feb 20, 2013 11:31 PM GMT
Frank Lampard and Branislav Ivanovic will sit out Chelsea's Europa League tie against Sparta Prague on Thursday night.
The European champions have a one-goal advantage courtesy of Oscar's late strike in Prague, so manager Rafael Benitez will take the opportunity to rest some of his more weary players.
The Blues' 33-year-old midfielder has appeared in all 13 of Chelsea's matches in 2013, starting 11 times, while Ivanovic has missed just one encounter since the turn of the year.
"Frank has been playing a lot of games," Benitez said in his pre-match press conference.
"Managing the squad means we can keep fresh legs on the pitch."
John Obi Mikel's involvement in the Africa Cup of Nations and injury to David Luiz forced Lampard to play a number of games in quick succession, but their return allows the veteran midfielder a much-needed break.
But three goals shy of Bobby Tambling's all-time goalscoring record, the decision to rest Lampard means he can set his sight on Sunday's clash with Manchester City as another chance to eclipse the milestone, though his manager has backed him to do so.
"It would be fantastic for him, and fantastic for us if he breaks the record," added Benitez.
Despite rotating his squad and already having a first-leg lead, Chelsea's interim boss is wary of the threat Sparta Prague pose, and refuses to take their threat lightly.
"We know tomorrow will not be an easy game, they are a good side," the Spaniard said.
"Winning three games in a row is good for confidence but it's also good that competition for places is very high."