Mikel Obi has warned returning hero Frank Lampard that friendship will be pushed to one side as Chelsea and Manchester City collide head on in what could be a Premier League title decider.
The two clubs who have virtually annexed this season’s championship race meet on Saturday night at Stamford Bridge.
A win for Chelsea could effectively seal the deal for Jose Mourinho’s men leaving them eight points ahead of the reigning champions.
It will be an emotional evening for Lampard who spent 13 years at the Bridge before his contentious move to Manchester City.
The 36-year-old even scored the equaliser in the 1-1 draw between the two rivals at the Etihad in September.
Following the revelation that Lampard will not be joining MLS new club New York City until the end of the season the midfielder will now be uncertain about the reception he will receive from supporters who have always idolised him.
But former team-mate Mikel said: “The Chelsea fans should definitely cheer him. Frank is a legend for the club. I think that the fans will welcome him very well.
“He was at the club a long time and I think the fans will be happy to have him back.
I learnt a lot from him. He is a very good friend of mine and we got on very, very well when he was here. It will be nice to see him back at Stamford Bridge.
“He’s such a lovely guy and for me and the fans we can’t wait to welcome him and give him a good ovation.”
But insists Mikel that’s as far as it goes, especially with three very important points up for grabs.
The 27-year-old Nigerian international who was back in the Chelsea side for Tuesday night’s 1-1 League Cup semi-final first leg draw at Liverpool admitted: “For nine years we won so many trophies. We were together in so many battles.
“In so many battles we fought together side by side digging out results in tough games. It will be strange to play against him. He’s going to have to do his job and I’m going to have to do my job.
“We both want to win and after the game we are both friends. But during the game there is no friendship.”
First though Chelsea will be looking to finish off the League Cup job against Liverpool at the Bridge on Tuesday night and reach the March 1st Wembley final.
“The first leg was a really tough game. We did well with the way we competed and showed the character that we have in the team.”Mikel added.” We were disappointed conceding the goal but now we have to take the game back home and finish off the tie.”
Now Mikel is anxious to be involved in both games after often being overlooked. He said : “I’ve been here for nine years and maybe this season has been one of the toughest for me.
“Obviously you want to play week in week out but sometimes you have to understand where the manager is coming from.
“If the players there are playing well, you don’t have any argument. So I just have to wait for whenever I am called upon, take my chance and do what I have to do.”