Frank Lampard believes Antonio Conte can lead Chelsea to a serious title challenge this season.
The Blues’ record goalscorer is still an avid Premier League watcher despite plying his trade with New York City in Major League Soccer and thinks Conte is the man to turn around his old side’s fortunes.
Chelsea finished 10th last season as Jose Mourinho’s title defence crumbled in spectacular fashion.
But Lampard has heard enough good things from Andrea Pirlo, his New York team-mate and a former Conte player with both Juventus and Italy, to predict a top-two finish.
“Being at Chelsea for such a long time I have an allegiance so I would obviously like Chelsea to win the league and I think they’ll be back challenging,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Sportsweek.
“I do fancy it being between Chelsea and Manchester City this year.
“I spoke to Pirlo (about Conte) about him and he had nothing but great things to say. He works the lads very hard in training with his fitness work and with organisation on the pitch.
“The players will need to buy into that and respect that then you’ll see an improvement from last year.”
Conte earned major plaudits for his handling of the Azzurri during this summer’s European Championship, guiding an unfancied squad to a creditable quarter-final defeat by Germany.
And his work in France also impressed Lampard.
“Seeing him at the Euros I loved his passion, I loved how he was on the line, how he had his team together with a real fighting spirit,” said the 38-year-old midfielder.
“That will all help Chelsea and I look forward to that.”