Frank Lampard insists injuries and the unrelenting nature of the Premier League are to blame for Everton’s slump in form rather than his former manager Carlo Ancelotti.
Lampard comes face to face with his ex-boss as manager for only the second time when Chelsea head to Goodison Park on Saturday.
And the fixture has come at a good time for the Blues who are attempting to stretch their unbeaten run to 18 matches, in stark contrast to their opponents.
Everton started the Premier League campaign with a bang and topped the Premier League after five games with four wins and a draw.
But since then Ancelotti’s side have taken just four points from their last six outings and have dropped to ninth.
“I just think that’s the Premier League and the nature of it,” Lampard said at a press conference on Thursday.
“They started very well, they had quality players, they have brought in quality players, they have a fantastic manager, one of the best in the world.
“But the Premier League is unforgiving. I know they have had a few injuries, but we all have our own moments or patches where results are challenging.”
Lampard is keen to guard against any complacency in his own side and not to underestimate what is a perennially tough fixture.
“It doesn’t change my thoughts abut how I approach playing against Everton,” he added.
“They are a very good side with great individuals within a really good collective and they can win games as we saw earlier in the season, so I’m focusing on their strengths and the dangers that we face going up there which we found last year.
“It was a different time and a different manager at the time, but it was a very tough match for us, that should be fresh in our minds.”
As well as showing respect for a fellow manager, Lampard has personal memories of Ancelotti’s abilities as a coach, having worked under him at Stamford Bridge from 2009 to 2011.
“I was heavily influenced by him as a player and a man at the time,” he said.
“He’s right at the top when I speak about the managers I worked with, and for everything about him; the huge success he’s had in his career at various clubs.
“One-to-one I found him a great coach, a great man and he influenced me, and I very much look forward at all times to seeing him and speaking with him.”