It’s been a productive few weeks for Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who is hoping to carry his recent impressive form for the Blues into tomorrow’s Europa League game against MOL Vidi.
The Chelsea midfielder addressed the media at the Groupama Arena, the venue for tomorrow’s fixture, shortly after the squad arrived in Hungary, and discussed his own form, as well as answering some questions related to the incident involving Raheem Sterling in Saturday’s game against Manchester City.
Having produced what Maurizio Sarri described as his best tactical performance against PAOK last month, Loftus-Cheek then scored our second goal in the win over Fulham before starting – and netting again – at Wolves.
The 22-year-old was introduced off the bench at a critical point in last weekend’s victory over the champions with the team holding a slender 1-0 lead, and performed well in a wide attacking role.
‘It’s been really good for my confidence,’ he said of his recent involvement. ‘I’ve had a lot more game-time on the pitch and I’ve been doing well when I’ve played so I’m raring to go at the minute.
‘I want to enjoy it and improve on my game as much as I can when I’m playing. It’s given me more confidence that the manager is playing me more so I’m heading in the right direction.’
Despite the fact we have already secured our place in the next round of the Europa League, as well as first place in the group, Loftus-Cheek believes those players selected tomorrow will be eager to perform well.
‘I think it will be a really tough game, firstly,’ he said. ‘As a team, as Chelsea Football Club, it’s important we keep a mentality of wanting to win every game and improve in every game.
‘If we go into some games, like this one because we’ve already qualified, sloppy, then it doesn’t give us the chance to improve as much as we want, so it’s important for us to have the right mentality coming into these games.
‘There will be different players playing, with the manager swapping the team about a lot, and players will want to impress, so we’re coming here looking to win.’
One of those hoping to be involved is Ethan Ampadu, the versatile 18-year-old. Loftus-Cheek spoke about his team-mate’s qualities.
‘In terms of Ethan, he’s a great boy and a funny lad,’ said the midfielder. ‘I’m really happy for him that he’s at Chelsea and doing well when he plays, coming on at right-back against PAOK and doing well.
‘If he gets the chance to play tomorrow I’m sure he will do well. He’s mentally strong and he has a great attitude.’
Following an incident during Saturday's game against Man City, Loftus-Cheek was asked about his day-to-day experiences as a young black player in the game.
‘I think we’ve made some steps, definitely made some steps, from back then [the 1980s] but it [racism] obviously still goes on today,’ he said.
‘From Chelsea’s point of view I know there is an investigation going on and I know they will take the hardest response if it is racial abuse, and tackle it in the right way.
‘No I haven’t actually,’ he added, when asked if he had experienced any racism during his playing career. ‘Off the football pitch I have, years ago, but never on the pitch. It doesn’t happen a lot in England but it obviously still happens.
‘I’m sure most people don’t like this and it needs to be out of the game as quickly as possible. When incidents do come up like this we need to take a hard response on it.
‘I haven’t spoken to Raheem about it. I prefer to leave him and let him deal with it mentally himself. He’s a strong-minded person so I’m sure he will be alright but I think he was right to say what he said [on social media].
‘I don’t think it should be in the game, or anywhere, so him speaking out was the right thing to do and if it happened to me I would do the same.
‘I’m not surprised to be asked about it because I’m a black player. People want to know my opinion about it and I’ll give my opinion about it. It’s something that’s not nice for us black players but we’ve definitely made some steps if we’re looking back. It’s a negative point if it is racial abuse, but on a positive point we have made some steps.’