John Barnes expects Chelsea to finish either third or fourth in the Premier League next season and doubts Frank Lampard’s side will overtake Liverpool or Manchester City.
The Blues defeated Wolves on the final day of the season to secure a top-four finish in the top-flight, finishing level on points with Manchester United.
Liverpool won the title in style and Manchester City finished 15 points clear of United and Chelsea.
Chelsea’s recent transfer business – they have signed Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner already this summer – has raised hope of a title challenge at Stamford Bridge.
But former Liverpool and England star Barnes believes Lampard’s side will still struggle to keep pace with defending champions Liverpool and Pep Guardiola’s Man City.
He told BonusCodeBets: ‘I definitely feel like Chelsea can challenge for the top four again next season, but I don’t necessarily think they can challenge Manchester City and Liverpool just yet.
‘However, they will become more competitive and get closer to the top two teams in the Premier League with the signings they have made.
‘Signing Ziyech, Werner and potentially more is clearly a strong indication that Chelsea are there to compete next season.
‘I am sure they will be in the top four again, but I don’t think they will be ready to make a move for first or second place in the league just yet.’
Lampard returned to Chelsea last summer following Maurizio Sarri’s sacking and largely impressed during his first season, with his young side reaching the FA Cup final and knockout stages of the Champions League.
On the Chelsea manager, Barnes added: ‘Frank Lampard has done a decent job this season.
‘A lot of pressure was on him, especially with the transfer ban, so I think he has done well.
‘I don’t necessarily think he should be up there as manager of the season. There’s only one manager of the season and that is Jurgen Klopp.
‘But that doesn’t mean I don’t think he has a done a good job over the past season.
‘The way Lampard has conducted himself has been great, given a lot of the issues he had to deal with at the start of the season, including the transfer ban.’
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