London, November 9: Frank Lampard concedes Manchester City's blistering start to the Premier League season will make it difficult for Chelsea to defend their title, but he has warned against writing off Antonio Conte's side.
Man City are eight points clear of Manchester United and Tottenham at the top of the table after 11 matches, with Chelsea a further point adrift in fourth.
The Blues were beaten 1-0 by the league leaders when they met at Stamford Bridge in September – a result that was followed by a shock defeat to basement club Crystal Palace.
Subsequent wins against Watford and Bournemouth helped Chelsea build some momentum before getting the better of Manchester United at home last time out.
While City have been given a sizeable head start in their bid to regain the Premier League trophy, Lampard – who played for both clubs – believes the title remains within reach for Chelsea.
"It's a possibility, but this year's going to be difficult because Manchester City have started so well," Lampard told Omnisport, speaking thanks to Chelsea FC club partners Yokohama Tyres.
"The reality is that they've opened up a lead and have a very strong squad.
"I think for Chelsea, they're fighting not just in the Premier League but in the Champions League and more games.
Frank Lampard made his debut for the Blues 16 years ago today!
The rest is history. pic.twitter.com/JN2OSWA4xN— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) August 19, 2017
"I think Chelsea, for sure, will be competitive. Chelsea have to be established to stay in the top four every year because they have to play Champions League football.
"We'll see. Manchester City have played very well but the performance against Manchester United from Chelsea was very impressive.
"If they play at that level, Chelsea can beat any team."
And Lampard praised the ongoing impact of manager Conte, who has been linked persistently with a return to Italy since leading his team to glory in his maiden Premier League campaign.
"Antonio Conte came to Chelsea at a time when they finished 10th in the the year before," added Lampard. "It was a difficult period for the club.
"Chelsea don't finish 10th. That doesn't happen normally.
"So to change that around with pretty much the same group of players shows what a great manager he is. Great tactically, great with the players, the players work very hard together.
"Last season they won the league comfortably because of Conte's management to a big degree.
"We're very early in the season now. Unfortunately in the Premier League, if you don't win every game, people start talking about your job.
"But I think with Conte, everybody close to Chelsea knows what a great manager he is and I hope he stays. I think he'll be more successful."