Frank Lampard called on his Chelsea players to produce a reaction to their humbling defeat at home to Brighton on Saturday.
The Blues host European champions Real Madrid in the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final on Tuesday but were outclassed by Roberto De Zerbi’s team as they lost for the third game in a row under their interim manager.
The 2-1 reverse was a further sign of the depth of the problems engulfing the club almost one year into Todd Boehly’s ownership, with the hoped-for uptick in form since former boss Graham Potter was sacked having failed to materialise.
It left Chelsea firmly in the Premier League’s bottom half, with their points tally of 39 putting them closer to bottom club Southampton than to the top four.
Lampard said there was “no dressing up” the loss to the Seagulls, which was secured when teenager Julio Enciso found the top corner from 30 yards midway through the second half, and challenged his side to respond.
“From today’s performance, it’s clear,” he said. “I’m not going to dress today’s performance up. I don’t think the players would want me to.
“And I’m not hanging anyone out to dry. I can see there’s talent in that (dressing) room. But you have to have the extra bits and we were short of those today.
“There can be many reasons why a player is not performing at their limit. What we want now is to get a result on Tuesday. We have to build towards having a team that’s full of character.
“I can only be honest. I can’t sit here and say ‘not a bad game, we didn’t deserve to lose’. I can’t say that. The players wouldn’t expect anything else.
“The only thing that matters now is the reaction. That’s what matters until the end of the season.
“Who knows what that looks like. People will talk about three losses. I’m thinking about performance. Then wins will come.”