NEW YORK – Frank Lampard has called Didier Drogba a great friend and teammate, but never has he been an opponent.
That should change Sunday afternoon.
For the first time, the two former Chelsea stars will likely meet on opposite sides of a soccer field when New York City FC face the Montreal Impact at Stade Saputo (5 pm ET, ESPN in US, TSN2/RDS/MLS LIVE in Canada).
“I can’t wait to play against him because he’s such a powerful presence and a person,” Lampard said. “We played with each other a lot of times. It will be nice to go against each other.”
Both players have dealt with injuries that limited their playing time in their first two seasons in Major League Soccer. A nagging calf strain suffered in the preseason resulted in four months off the field for Lampard, which included the first meeting against the Impact, a 1-1 draw April 27 at Yankee Stadium.
Still, Lampard said he had the chance to catch up with Drogba and even exchange jerseys after the game.
Drogba has missed the Impact’s last two games with a thigh injury, but took to Twitter to announce his return will be against NYCFC Sunday.
“We’re loving the experience of being here,” Lampard said. “I think Didier is one of my top friends in football. It was an absolute pleasure to play with him, he’s a gentleman and a leader in the dressing room, as we all saw in the back end of the Montreal season last year.”
Lampard said he’s watched Impact games on television and is looking forward to his first experience playing at Stade Saputo.
“I’ve seen it. I know they’re passionate about their soccer as I think so many cities in America and Canada now are,” Lampard said. “It looks to be one of those environments where they are fully behind their team. Those are the environments you love. As an away team player, it has to bring out the best in you. You have to use that as a spur.”
Back from injury, Lampard is enjoying his best form in MLS, scoring four goals in the club’s last five games, including in back-to-back road games against New England and Kansas City.
“I feel good. I’m fit. I don’t think I’m quite all myself, I think I can get better. But I’m pleased to contribute with goals, pleased to be playing on the team,” Lampard said. “We’ll forget the [3-1 loss at Kansas City], but before that the performances and results were very, very good. I want to carry on now. I’m eager. I missed too many games. I want to play every other day now.”
Lampard also knows who he wants to swap shirts with on Sunday.
“I switched with him, even though I didn’t play in the early game, but I’ll switch with him again,” Lampard said of Drogba. “You can’t have enough proper shirts.”