By Ian Parker, PA
Frank Lampard has insisted he is “excited” by the challenge of Everton’s relegation battle as they prepare for Wednesday’s crunch fixture away to Burnley.
The Toffees go into the match three points clear of the bottom three and four above 19th-placed Burnley, having lost five of their last six in the league, with a sense of pessimism growing within the fanbase.
Lampard took over at the start of February but has so far been unable to arrest the slide, winning two and losing six of his eight league games in charge.
“Tension can be a good thing, it can also go the other way,” he said. “I don’t feel tense, I feel excited by the level of this game and the competitive nature.
“I loved as a player being involved in competitive games and now we have 10 of those and this is the first one. I’m calm and I’m excited.”
Adding to the doom and gloom are reports suggesting rival Premier League clubs are demanding an explanation of Everton’s financial losses – they have now reported deficits of more than £100million for a third successive season.
Lampard would not be drawn on that topic, insisting he did not know enough about it, but was instead determined to stay upbeat.
“Remaining positive is the biggest thing for me to do,” he added. “A lot of the feeling of expectation and dissection of games comes in the modern day surrounding a club like Everton, or any huge club – we are a huge club with a huge fanbase and huge tradition, so it’s very much expected.
“The most important thing is to be the positive one.”
As the pressure mounts, Lampard said mental preparation was key for the rest of the season.
“We’re playing in a position and a reality where we’re fighting at the bottom end of the table to stay in the league,” he said.
“That’s been the case for a while, and every game that goes it becomes more intense, so the mental preparation and the physical preparation is key. That’s what we can control.”
A big part of that mental preparation must also focus on discipline. Everton have had three red cards in their last three league games, and though Lampard might dispute Allan’s dismissal against Newcastle last month, he acknowledged a need to address the issue.
“I don’t like the red cards,” he said. “Allan’s I don’t think was one, but we won’t go over that again.
“The other two types of tackle can happen in a game, but when you’re on a yellow card it’s the type of tackle you should refrain from.
“The players know that because when you’re trying to get back into a game at West Ham or Wolves it’s made more difficult with 10 men. We have to make sure with the level of the games and the importance on them that we don’t make those mistakes – they are mistakes.”
Allan and Michael Keane will both miss Wednesday’s match through suspension, with Donny van de Beek also sidelined by a thigh problem to join Yerry Mina and Andros Townsend in the treatment room.
Nathan Patterson, who had been in line to make his Premier League debut last weekend after impressing with Scotland, needs ankle surgery and his season appears to be over.
Seamus Coleman is back following an illness, while Fabian Delph is also in the squad after injury.