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Chelsea midfielder N’Golo Kante was missing in the 3-0 win against Burnley on Saturday, as the Frenchman was out with a hamstring injury.
In Kante’s stead, Chelsea boss Frank Lampard fielded Ross Barkley for his first Premier League appearance since October.
Barkley gave a good account of himself in the middle of the park as Chelsea dominated proceedings at Stamford Bridge, and Lampard was pleased with the performance of the 26-year-old and admitted that he rates the England midfielder as anyone in the Chelsea midfield.
“I speak a lot with Ross, I really like him and his character,” Frank Lampard told reporters. “He came to me a couple of weeks ago and he said to me that he’s just starting to feel good. It was a niggling injury and he’s just starting to feel released from it.
“Today was the performance we want out of Ross, it was so positive. You saw his quality on the ball. He can hit the right-foot ball, left-foot ball, take the ball well. He looked confident today. That’s part of Ross’ game that you could question from the outside: how confident is he when things go against him?
“We know exactly what Ross can do. He is an England player, he is playing for Chelsea and deservedly so. He has given me a lot of thinking to do with that performance today.
“I do have my issues in terms of my selection here but I have no winners in terms of who I like more or less. ‘He is a better bloke than that one’ – no. It’s what works for us. It’s what’s good out on the pitch.
“Ross was a selection where people might have thought: ‘Oh, Ross and Mason Mount in midfield?’ – they both showed why they should be there today. It’s not easy for the midfielders. I’ve had to have little difficult conversations with pretty much all of them at some point this season. That’s a good thing in terms of selection for me and trying to find the right balance.
“Different games require different things. If everyone is firing and pushing each other then it is not a problem. Ross coming in today and performing like that is a really good problem.”