Loftus-Cheek on playing freely, relishing the role of villain and being grateful for opportunities

Ruben Loftus-Cheek put in an all-action display in our 1-0 win at Malmo and reflected afterwards on the team’s improvement throughout the game, as well as his own increased involvement in the side.

The 25-year-old started his first Champions League game in six years in Sweden and produced a midfield performance to reward his manager’s faith in selecting him, completing more take-ons and winning more duels than any player on the pitch.

Yet it took almost an hour for the Blues to finally break the deadlock, a consequence of Malmo’s dogged efforts holding firm before Callum Hudson-Odoi and Hakim Ziyech combined for the only goal of the game.

‘The whole team grew into the game,’ explained Loftus-Cheek. ‘We started to get used to where we could find space and where the gaps were to penetrate so we could create chances.

‘It was tough for us to break them down and on another day, we would come away with a lot more goals but three points in the main thing.

‘Goals like ours will break down any team with the way we played it, the give-and-gos, it’s hard to stop. With the pace of Callum as well and Hakim arriving in the box, that’s what we do in training and he’s finished it really well.’

‘I feel good physically and mentally I’ve left my injury behind. It doesn’t even come into my head now.'

photo of Ruben Loftus-Cheek Ruben Loftus-Cheek

The Malmo atmosphere was impressive as the locals filled the Eleda Stadion to capacity for the first time in two years for the visit of the European champions and Loftus-Cheek admitted the noise and colour provided the perfect stage for performing.

With a raucous home crowd against them, Thomas Tuchel’s men were clearly outnumbered but that role as antagonists is one they relish according to Loftus-Cheek.

‘We thought it would be like that, in their home stadium with a full house, and it was a great atmosphere,’ he said.

‘They wanted to put on a show and they came with pressure early on. We got caught our a few times in the first half but we did well to settle down and play our football.

‘It was about getting to grips with the pressure, their formation and where I could find space. All of that stuff is going on in the early stages and you’re trying to get a feel for the game.

‘You feel the energy from the fans whenever we made a mistake or they created a chance and that’s something I’ve always admired about playing away in Europe. It’s hard to describe the feeling but I like it when we’re the villain team, going away and winning.’

The run-out was Loftus-Cheek’s ninth appearance and his third 90 minutes of the current campaign, his positive form coinciding with a regular run in the side. Following notable injuries that have thwarted his progress in recent years, the Chelsea Academy graduate admitted he feels strong once again, fully recovered in both body and mind.

‘I feel good physically and mentally I’ve left my injury behind,’ he added. ‘It doesn’t even come into my head now. I’m playing freely and I can concentrate on football and football only so I’m in a good place.

‘I’ll try to keep developing. I’m grateful for the time on the pitch that I have and I’ll just keep giving my best.’

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