Ruben Loftus-Cheek played an hour in a behind closed doors friendly between Chelsea’s Under-23s and Brentford B at Cobham this morning as the England midfielder steps up his recovery from a long-term achilles injury.
The 24-year-old, who suffered the injury in the post-season friendly against New England Revolution last May, trained with Frank Lampard’s first team last week but this morning’s appearance is the most significant step yet.
While no specific first-team return date has been set, Loftus-Cheek is expected to take a full part in training when the men’s squad reconvenes after their winter break.
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However, he is almost certain to play again for the development squad before making a competitive senior return because the club’s medical team have warned against him being rushed back following such a lengthy absence.
Chelsea’s next development squad fixture is away to Arsenal on Monday February 17, at the same time that the first team host Manchester United in the Premier League, although another friendly could be arranged before then.
Brentford B won 2-0 thanks to second half goals from Fredrik Hammar and Dru Yearwood.
Billy Gilmour played all 90 minutes for the Blues and Loftus-Cheek showed no adverse effects on his return, even going close to scoring the opening goal with an attempt nearing the break that drifted narrowly wide.
Last week Lampard said of Loftus-Cheek: “He’ll be with the U23s to try and get some minutes, he’ll have to get some minutes.
“He’s had a full week of training with us for the first time and he has come through it. It’d great to see him but he looks short, he knows he’s short, you couldn’t not be after he has been out for so long.
“So yes, U23s progression and hopefully after the break we can talk about him more when he is going to come…