RUBEN LOFTUS-CHEEK has been promised time to reach top form by Chelsea manager Frank Lampard as he looks to put his injury nightmare behind him.
The 25-year-old England midfielder, who featured in a more advanced No.10 role in the Blues’ 3-1 win at Brighton on Monday, still looked rusty 16 months after an Achilles tear which saw him sit out most of last season.
Sky pundit Gary Neville described Loftus-Cheek’s performance at the Amex Stadium as ‘disappointing’ and suggested he must do more to survive Chelsea’s overhaul, which has seen them spend more than £200m already during the current transfer window.
But Lampard said: ‘Ruben obviously has been out for a long time and even his return to play was pretty broken by the lockdown and the restart when he was just available to play a few games.
‘So we certainly have to give him a bit of time on those fronts.’
Loftus-Cheek, who made nine appearances at the end of last season, is likely to retain his creative role against champions Liverpool at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
American forward Christian Pulisic is not yet over a hamstring complaint and summer signing Hakim Ziyech missed the comfortable victory at Brighton with a knee issue.
‘It’s a position that Ruben can play for us, we’ve got injuries with Ziyech out and Pulisic out as well,’ added the Chelsea manager.
‘They are players that will come back and give me lots of options, so it was interesting for me to see Ruben in that No.10 position today. He can certainly give us lots in those areas.’
The Blues became just the third club in Premier League history to reach 2,000 points with their victory.
Jorginho, who captained Chelsea with Cesar Azpilicueta not fit enough to start after hamstring trouble, put the Blues ahead from the penalty spot, with Reece James’ thunderbolt and Kurt Zouma completing their victory.
Potter helps Lamptey to shake off the Blues
GRAHAM POTTER has vowed Brighton will help ‘refreshing’ full-back Tariq Lamptey capitalise on trading life at Chelsea for the Seagulls.
Brighton boss Potter heaped praise on teenager Lamptey for his pacy performance against his former club in Monday’s 3-1 Premier League defeat.
The 19-year-old came through the ranks at Chelsea but left west London for the south coast in a £4million deal in January, and Potter said: ‘He’s got a lot of respect, I know, for Chelsea. But obviously then it’s our job to try to help him make the most of that decision.
‘He’s a wonderful young player and it’s a delight to have him. He’s a really good lad to work with, because he’s so humble, and it’s just so refreshing how he plays.’