Embattled new Valencia boss Albert Celades cut a lonely figure as he discussed his side’s Champions League clash with Chelsea.
The Spanish side arrived at Stamford Bridge in a certain amount of disarray ahead of Tuesday night’s Group H opener against the Blues.
The players refused to attend the pre-match press conference in the wake of last week’s sacking of popular manager Marcelino, who led them to Copa del Rey success and secured Champions League qualification last season.
A 5-2 defeat in Celades’ first match in charge, against Barcelona at the weekend, presumably did not improve morale.
Celades, 43, duly took press conference duties alone on Monday evening, yet he insisted that no matter what the feelings are inside the camp, the team will be motivated to beat Chelsea.
He said: “Obviously it’s not an ideal situation but it’s the players’ decision, really. I don’t have much more to say about that. There isn’t anything I can do about it.
“I speak to the players every day. They took this decision but there is always dialogue. The reaction I’ve had has been very good and I’m sure it will continue to improve.
“The spirit is very good. (Tuesday) is the start of the best club competition in Europe and that is ample motivation for the players to give their best.
“They want to play, taste the atmosphere. and be in the starting XI. No-one wants to miss out and that, for me, is the most important thing.”
As for the task facing his team, with the Blues fresh from Saturday’s 5-2 win at Wolves, Celades said: “They are a great side with some fantastic individual players.
“It will be a big challenge but a fascinating one too. We’re sure they can cause us a lot of problems.
“We’re going to prepare for the game in the best way possible and try to get a result.”
Three of Chelsea’s goals against Wolves came from Tammy Abraham, who took his tally for the season to seven.
But manager Frank Lampard insists the club’s transfer ban did not force his hand to play the 21-year-old this term.
With Chelsea currently banned from bringing in new players, Lampard has relied heavily on Abraham and fellow youngsters Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori.
But the Blues boss says he always believed the time was right for Abraham, who has had spells on loan with Bristol City, Swansea and Aston Villa, to be handed his chance in west London.
“I never had clear expectations for him, only the fact that I believed in him and trusted in him,” said Lampard.
“I know a lot has been made about the ban giving young players opportunities but I felt the time was right for Tammy to have his opportunity at this club anyway, because of the quality he has got.
“I’m really delighted that he has got his goals. I think there’s even more to come. He’s in a good place, a place that just requires him to sustain and improve even more and I think with his mentality and the way he is every day I hope to see that.”
Abraham is set for his Champions League debut against Valencia, while for Lampard it will be a first match in Europe as manager.
Lampard, who lifted the trophy as a Blues player in 2012, said: “I’ll be proud to do it. I had multiple incredible nights in the Champions League – and some bad ones – and it is the ultimate in club football for me.
“I’ll be proud to take the team out, well aware that what matters is results and starting the group well, but yes I am excited.”
Lampard will be without defender Antonio Rudiger due to a groin injury, while N’Golo Kante and Callum Hudson-Odoi are not match fit.