Ruben Loftus-Cheek was relieved to complete his first full game since December in Chelsea’s 5-0 win over Dynamo Kiev on Thursday night.
Loftus-Cheek had missed three weeks of action with a back injury at the beginning of the year, but has slowly worked his way back to full fitness, and put in an impressive shift at Kiev’s Olympic Stadium.
Hat-trick hero Olivier Giroud will take the headlines, but it will remain a memorable evening for the England midfielder, who was named in Gareth Southgate’s squad for the forthcoming international action alongside team-mate Ross Barkley.
Reflecting on his role in the Europa League win, Loftus-Cheek said: ‘I really enjoyed it, it was my first 90 in a while. It was difficult at the end but I kept pushing to try and get the runs in my legs and I’m really happy with that.
‘It’s difficult when you’re not playing as much as you’d like and you’re not playing 90 regularly. Before I was injured I was playing quite a bit and I was feeling good and then I got injured again at the wrong time for me. I had to take it slowly but I’m building up nicely.’
The international call is just reward for his commitment in finding his way back to form and fitness after a frustrating period, and he has targeted a clean run of fitness for the rest of the campaign.
‘It’s hard, especially with the injuries I’ve had. It’s important for me to stay mentally strong for the rest of the season, stay fit and work on my body so when I get the opportunities I can do well and help the team,’ explained the 23-year-old ‘I feel good now so hopefully that will stay and I can play to the best of my abilities.’
He certainly showed glimpses of his quality in Kiev, turning in a powerful performance at the heart of the midfield. The team’s display, he believes, demonstrates our hunger to succeed in the Europa League.
‘We’re here to win this. We showed that on the night,’ he said. ‘We didn't go there just to qualify, we wanted to win and we knew it would be difficult with them coming out needing to get goals early. We got the first goal to settle it down a bit and after that we played some really good football. Congratulations to Oli for his hat-trick, it was fantastic.’