FRANK LAMPARD will have serious scrutiny if he fails to get his Chelsea side into the Champions League next season, according to reports.
The Blues currently sit fourth in the Premier League table with 41 points from their 26 games.
But after a stellar start to his time in charge, things have taken a slight dip in recent weeks.
And according to The Telegraph, that has led to questions being asked about the manager for the first time since he replaced Maurizio Sarri last season.
Fifth-placed Tottenham are one point behind Chelsea ahead of Jose Mourinho’s return to Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
At one stage, the gap between the Blues and the chasing pack was 12 points but that has been cut, thanks in part to their current run of four Premier League games without a win.
News of Manchester City’s Uefa ban could help Lampard – finishing fifth looks as though it should be enough to secure a Champions League spot next season.
That poor form has not gone unnoticed and Chelsea now find themselves in a season-defining stretch of matches at home to Manchester United, Tottenham and Bayern Munich.
Add into the mix the fact that the early-season hype around the likes of Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham and Fikayo Tomori has worn off a little plus no new signings arriving in January and there is a subdued feeling among some Chelsea fans with a minority even calling for their legendary midfielder to be sacked.
Tomori is struggling for game time, Abraham has suffered some injuries and Mount is without a goal since December 4.
Kepa was dropped for the Leicester game before the winter break after a tough few weeks, including an error that gifted Newcastle the win at St James’ Park.
But while many anticipated the world’s most expensive goalkeeper to return against United, Willy Caballero kept his place.
Even if Lampard plans to replace Kepa in the summer, the Spaniard needs to be playing to keep his resale value up.
With Giroud, he made just his eighth Chelsea appearance of the season when he came off the bench on Monday night.
In the absence of Abraham and Michy Batshuayi out of form, Lampard may well need to call upon the Frenchman he was willing to let go last month if he wants to secure a place at Europe’s top table next term.