Analysis

Loftus-Cheek on breaking down a low block, ‘poacher’ Giroud and his own on-pitch progress

Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s first Stamford Bridge start since May 2019 ended in what the midfielder described as a ‘massive’ victory, leaving our Champions League fate next season in our own hands with two league matches remaining.

The 24-year-old was named in Frank Lampard’s starting XI for the second time since football in this country resumed, having come off the bench in the five games following the win at Aston Villa last month. It was his first appearance from the off on home soil since the Europa League semi-final second-leg success over Eintracht Frankfurt, with the win over Norwich another step taken in avoiding entering that competition again.

‘We had to bounce back after the last game because it wasn’t good enough for us or our fans,’ said Loftus-Cheek.

‘It was a big game and to get the three points is massive, especially as results in the last couple of days went our way. At 1-0 there was always a chance they could get a lucky goal. I felt like we had a lot of possession and we didn’t take our chances with that possession.

‘The gaffer was saying we had to keep a clean sheet. Norwich were good to be fair, it was hard to break them down. That’s what teams are doing coming up against us, staying in a low block and sitting back. The goal calmed us down a bit and we had chances but couldn’t stick them away, but mostly I’m happy with the three points.’

Loftus-Cheek had words of praise for the man who able to stick one of his chances away: Olivier Giroud.

'He’s really important for us. He’s a finisher, a poacher in the box, which is what we need at the moment when teams are sitting back and defending against us. You always have a chance to sling it in the box and Oli might be there to put it in. Great team player.’

Of his own performance, which lasted 67 minutes before Ross Barkley replaced him, Loftus-Cheek senses progress being made as the weeks tick by and he continues to build up match fitness following that awful Achilles injury last May.

‘I feel like I’m improving. My game’s coming on. I was really happy to start and get some more minutes. This injury is a lot different to previous ones I have had, and the explosiveness is still to come, but I’m getting there.’

With Manchester United and Leicester City playing on Thursday, the gap to fourth and fifth is, for now at least, four points. Those two sides meet on the final day.

‘We have to manage the pressure,’ stressed Loftus-Cheek.

‘We’re used to it playing for Chelsea, that comes with it. We have to do the job, and we really want to be in the Champions League next year so we’ll give it our all.

‘We have two really tough games against Liverpool and Wolves to come, so it’s in our hands. We don’t want to be reliant on other results to put us through to the Champions League. We’re in a good position. We have got to nail it down and give it our all.’

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