For several years Ruben Loftus-Cheek has been viewed as the cornerstone to which Chelsea’s midfield should be built around. Yet time may be running out for that belief to become reality.
Now 24 years old, the England international hasn’t played for Chelsea since rupturing his left Achilles tendon in a match organised to promote a campaign against anti-Semitism against MLS side New England Revolution last May.
His road back to fitness has been arduous, a ten-month slog which has included plenty of gym work and even more patience. But when the Premier League eventually resumes, Loftus-Cheek should be ready for selection if not entirely match fit.
So far his game time equates to 60 minutes in a match against Brentford B. A 90-minute appearance against Everton in a Premier League 2 clash. And then another 45 minutes in a friendly.
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It may take Loftus-Cheek some time to get back up to speed with the pace of top-flight football but when he does he will offer Frank Lampard something his midfield has lacked for much of this season: goals.
Prior to his injury last term, Loftus-Cheek struck ten times in all competitions. Predominantly stationed on the left of a midfield three under Maurizio Sarri, he was given licence to break forward and threaten the opposition goal.
He was excellent in Chelsea’s run to the Europa League final, scoring four times and creating a further three goals in seven matches. And his form in UEFA’s secondary club competition eventually earned him a run of starts in the Premier League towards the end of the campaign.
He had started six out of seven top-flight fixtures prior to his injury and looked every inch the midfield general. He could swat off challenges with alarming ease, could dribble behind the most tenacious of opponents, and could then find the net.