John Obi Mikel is begging Chelsea fans to show Frank Lampard some respect when he turns up at Stamford Bridge in a Manchester City shirt on Saturday.
Feelings are running high over Lampard’s summer switch – when everyone thought he was off to New York City FC.
And the Blues legend scored a dramatic late equaliser for City in the game between the rival title contenders at the Etihad in September.
Chelsea boss, Jose Mourinho, is believed to be seething at Manuel Pellegrini for snapping up Lampard on a transfer disguised as a loan deal with New York.
But friend and fellow midfielder, Mikel, believes the supporters should forget all the controversy and give Lampard a hero’s reception.
After all, in 13 years with the London club, Lampard won three Premier League titles, the Champions League, Europa League, four FA Cups and two League Cups.
Mikel said: “Chelsea fans should definitely cheer him – there’s no question about that because Frank is a legend.
“He was at the club a long time and I think the fans will be happy to have him back. He’s such a lovely guy – we can’t wait to welcome him and give him a good ovation.”
But Mikel has warned there will be no love lost between them on the field.
He added: “I learnt a lot from Frank. He is a very good friend of mine and we got on very well when he was here. For nine years we won so many trophies. In so many battles we fought together side by side digging out results in tough games.
“So it will be strange to play against him here. We both want to win and after the game we are both friends. But during the game there is no friendship – it’s strictly business.”
Mikel hopes he will be in Chelsea’s engine room to face City but admits the uncertainty of a regular start in the team has made it tough for him.
He said: “Obviously I’m here to play. I’ve been here for nine years and maybe this season has been one of the hardest for me.
“I suppose I am a fixture here now. Nine years is a long time and I’m part of the furniture. We all know Chelsea packs quality and, to even be in the reckoning at all is a big thing. The key is to keep working hard. That is what I do. I don’t complain, I don’t moan. I work hard and when my chance comes, I take it – and you can see that it is why the boss has faith in me.”
Although Mikel has been in the shadow of midfield enforcer, Nemanja Matic, this season, he revealed that Chelsea’s military-style execution of Mourinho’s team orders makes it easy to slot in to the side – as he did in the League Cup against Liverpool.
“The system flows very well, you come in and know what you have to do. Everyone knows their job. It makes it a bit easier.”