Lampard backs Joe Cole for Lions
Frank Lampard insists teammate Joe Cole has every chance of
convincing England boss Fabio Capello that he is worth a place in
his squad for the World Cup finals this summer.
England midfielder Lampard helped put an end to Birmingham's 15-game unbeaten run with two goals in a 3-0 victory but Cole again demonstrated he is almost back to his magical best.
Cole laid on the first goal for Florent Malouda in the fifth minute with a mazy run and cross that left the City defence trailing in his wake.
But the 28-year-old, who has yet to sign a new deal at Stamford Bridge, is battling to prove to Capello he is worth taking to South Africa.
His chances are far from certain because he has not played for England since he came back from his knee injury in September and his performances in a Chelsea shirt before Christmas were somewhat inconsistent.
But Cole is now on the brink of re-discovering his best form and Lampard believes he should be given a chance to demonstrate that when England take on Egypt in a friendly in five weeks' time.
It will be one of the last opportunities for him to impress with Capello having to name his 23-man squad for the World Cup in May.
"I hope Joe gets called up by England - he deserves it for the hard work he's put in," said Lampard. "The England manager knows how good a player he is, like everyone at Chelsea does. If Joe keeps playing the way he is for Chelsea, he will have a great chance.
"He's getting sharper and sharper. Joe's that one player who injects that bit of brilliance where he can beat a man out of nowhere.
"He had a very bad injury and people expected him to come straight back in but it's not possible. He has worked harder than anyone and now we're seeing the benefits of it. He's only going to get better."
Chelsea's victory over City put them one point clear of Manchester United at the top of the Barclays Premier League.
Coach Carlo Ancelotti has Ivory Coast strike pair Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou back from African Nations Cup duty for the trip to Burnley on Saturday and Lampard knows that victory at Turf Moor plus a win against Hull the following week could open up a six-point lead at the summit.
"If we open up that gap again it'll be great." added Lampard. "Those little mental things are great during the season. It's great to be back on top. We knew we had games in hand but we didn't like to see ourselves down in third place. Arsenal were on a good run but it's a marathon not a sprint.
"We didn't say we'd struggle this month, everyone else did. We have a lot of belief. I just think the loss of Didier was talked about too much.
"Didier is a big loss but the way Nicolas Anelka plays, he's one of the best out there as well.
"We've got the players who can come in. Maybe some needed to step up and everyone has done.
"We have gone up another gear this month. We had a bad run in December, dropped some points and we've worked hard to get that back."
Lampard has rediscovered his goal-scoring touch as he made it five from his last four games.
Lampard now has 13 for the season and is looking to finish the campaign with 20 goals to move alongside Chelsea legends Peter Osgood and Roy Bentley in the record books. He needs seven more to match their feat of 150 goals for the club.
Meanwhile defender Ricardo Carvalho says Chelsea's good form has to be transformed into winning silverware.
Carvalho, who hit the post against Birmingham, also maintained that their form during January proved they could cope without the African Nations Cup quartet.
"We are playing well but in the end you have to win trophies," said Carvalho. "Everyone knows how important the league is for us and we want to be at the top and we want to stay there until the end.
"The message to the other teams now is they have to be worried about us because we have got great players here and we are fit and wanting to play well and help the team to win the trophy."