Roberto Di Matteo has insisted Frank Lampard's Chelsea future was "very strong", despite renewed speculation over whether the midfielder's glittering Stamford Bridge career might be drawing to a close.
Saturday's 2-1 Barclays Premier League win at Arsenal was the third successive match in which Lampard was not in the European champions' XI, with Ramires selected alongside John Obi Mikel in central midfield.
Lampard admittedly was injured for Tuesday's Carling Cup thrashing of Wolves, but his omission at the Emirates Stadium suggested the 34-year-old could start fewer big games during the final year of his current contract.
Chelsea have been left badly exposed by top-class opposition when Lampard has played an anchor role alongside Mikel this season and manager Di Matteo admitted after the Arsenal win that he deliberately picked two genuine holding players.
Running alongside all this is talk Lampard will not be offered anything longer than a one-year contract extension and that Los Angeles Galaxy are ready to make him Major League Soccer's latest big-name signing.
Lampard looks certain to return for Tuesday night's Champions League game at FC Nordsjaelland and Di Matteo said on Monday evening: "His future is very strong at this club. He's a very important player for us. I've had conversations with him, yeah, which I do on a regular basis with the players. I like to exchange opinions."
Despite Saturday's admission, Di Matteo insisted Lampard could adapt from a box-to-box goalscoring midfielder to an anchorman.
He added: "He's been playing that role, but I don't think I've ever taken those other things away from him. Those are his strengths, but you sometimes need discipline in that role. It's important for the balance of the team. But he's played there magnificently at the beginning of this season and last season as well."
Di Matteo has certainly done his own homework on Tuesday's opponents, who won the Danish title for the first time in their short history last term. The Farum-based club have been forced to switch their Champions League matches to FC Copenhagen's much larger Parken Stadium.
It is UEFA's mission to close that chasm by virtue of Financial Fair Play (FFP), something which Di Matteo backed wholeheartedly. "We as a club are in favour of FFP," he said. "We're doing everything to be within those new laws and rules, and I think we're on course for it."