In the build-up to today’s FA Cup semi-final, Ruben Loftus-Cheek sat down with us at Cobham to discuss the way we bounced back from disappointment with two brilliant performances and his own role in those victories from a new position.

One of the first players changed and ready to head out onto the pitch, there are certainly plenty of topics for conversation with the 26-year-old as he waits for his team-mates to join him, perched on a bench outside the dressing room at our training ground.

We start with his own role in the Chelsea team, which has seen him used in a new way by our head coach Thomas Tuchel to great effect over the last week. He has fulfilled a number of positions for the German this season, but it is as a wing-back that he has caught the eye with his last two performances.

He seemed to take to the role instantly as he started last weekend’s Premier League fixture away at Southampton on our right side, playing a part in four of our goals as we thumped the Saints 6-0. Loftus-Cheek then reprised the same role in the Bernabeu against Real Madrid in the Champions League, impressing again as won 3-2 on the night after extra time, even if it wasn’t enough to progress.

‘It was a bit different between the two games, but still had similar characteristics in the role that I was asked to do,’ said Ruben. ‘I’d never started at right wing-back before, but it was a role I was confident to play and carry out what was asked of me.

‘I’ve always been comfortable wherever I am on the pitch, I just have to bring my qualities to that position. In midfield you don’t necessarily get too much space to open up and drive with the ball and that’s one of my big strengths, so in this position sometimes it allowed me to open up and go past people and use my running power. So I enjoyed it.

‘Against Southampton, the gaffer gave me license to come inside, which is natural for me, to come and get the ball, and I think that kind of caught them off guard and pulled them about a bit. You don’t normally see a wing-back coming inside to a No8 or a No10 position to get the ball. They changed formation quite early, but we were just too focused on playing well and getting the win, and in the end it was ruthless.

‘I was given license in Madrid, but it was up to me to see the game and how it panned out and where I felt I could hurt them the most. Sometimes I was standing on the touchline, sometimes I was coming inside, sometimes nearly across to the other side of the pitch, like for Mason’s goal. I just tried to find space, create overloads, create confusion between Real Madrid’s players.

‘It was more defensively that we had to stay in our structure, but even then sometimes I had to come in midfield and sometimes I had to stay on the touchline. So I kind of had a base position, but it was up to me to read the play.’

Those consecutive victories over Southampton and Real Madrid were impressive performances, both individually and as a team, in their own right, but even more so when you consider they came off the back of two home losses, to Brentford and in the first leg against the Spanish side.

Loftus-Cheek admits those defeats were painful for the players, but they used that same pain as motivation to help them bounce back in such style, with personal pride, determination to defend the club’s honour and desire to repay the Blues supporters all playing a part in our return to winning ways, something he is hoping to carry into our FA Cup semi-final.

‘It can go two ways when you lose like that. You can get stuck in it when you’re feeling the disappointment still and you go in a kind of downward spiral because you’ve been beaten heavily and you’re feeling rubbish and it can go in a negative way. Or you can suck it up and say you don’t accept that, this not Chelsea.

‘It’s part of the club’s mentality, but also it hurts personally to be beaten. You take it to heart and it doesn’t sit well with you. I think it’s natural for us to take that hurt and put it into the next game and you saw that at Southampton and on Tuesday night.

‘We do that for ourselves personally, but also for the team and for the fans, because obviously the fans were hurt by it as well, just as much as us. If you can harness that hurt and anger and put it on the pitch you can be deadly.

‘Obviously we had two heavy defeats, which is unheard of at Chelsea. The Southampton game was a reaction to say we don’t accept that as a team. That was a show of real class and something for the fans. Now we’ve scored nine goals in two games, so we need to take that attacking ruthlessness into today’s game.’

Unfortunately, the second of our two victories over the last week was tinged with mixed feelings – pride at the brilliant performance we put in to win 3-2 over 120 minutes on the night, but disappointment it wasn’t enough to send us into the Champions League semi-finals on aggregate.

As we’ve already established, though, this is a Chelsea team which knows how to react to disappointment in the right way. After a few days to let the initial sting recede, Loftus-Cheek feels the combination of frustration at our exit and confidence from our performance could be the perfect motivation for our FA Cup semi-final.

‘There are very mixed emotions. We knew beforehand the task ahead of us was monumental, it was never going to be easy at the Bernabeu, even if we’d gone there at 0-0. But there was something within the squad that meant we still had belief we could take them on and beat them.

‘Obviously we did beat them on the night, but it wasn’t enough. But I think everyone is proud of what we did and how we performed. After it blows over and the disappointment settles down you can reflect on it with a neutral head. There’s a lot of pride, but still you have that feeling of what could have been, because it was so close. But that’s football.

‘Now we’ve got an FA Cup semi-final to focus on and sometimes that’s the best way to deal with it. You’ve got another huge game to play that can outweigh the disappointment and suddenly if you win that you’re really happy again.

‘I think we can take confidence from the performance on Tuesday after beating them in Madrid on the night and take that into the semi-final. It’s a similar kind of setting, in that it’s a huge stadium, but this time we’ll have our fans in half of it. So we’ll be ready for it for sure.’

The opponents at Wembley are a club Ruben knows well. He spent the 2017/18 season on loan with Crystal Palace and it was a year which had a big impact on his career, helping him to continue his development at an important stage while establishing himself in the Premier League.

‘I’d say it was the year I matured the most as a footballer,’ he explained. ‘That’s when I made the step to feeling like a fully-fledged Premier League footballer and I broke into the England team and went to the World Cup off the back of that. So I really felt like that was my breakthrough season and it gave me huge confidence.

‘After being here working with the senior team from the age of 17 until 20, training with these fantastic players, I felt like I still needed another experience, a next step, and Palace was definitely the right place for me. It’s where I learned to fight, which is important in football, because it wasn’t all sunshine, we weren’t winning every week.’

With a number of players from his time at Selhurst Park still with the Eagles, as well as knowing defenders Marc Guehi and Joachim Andersen from their time together at Chelsea and Fulham respectively, there will be plenty of familiar faces among the opposition ranks, even if he is looking to burst their bubble at Wembley.

‘I’m still friends with the people I played with there, so I’m happy for Palace. It’s fantastic to see what they’re doing at the moment, they’re in really good form.

‘I’m really good friends with both the centre-backs. I played with Marc here in pre-season a lot. He’s a fantastic player, which you can see, he’s starting every week at the back and I’ve seen him pop up with a few goals as well from corners. Joa was one of our better players at Fulham last season and they’re creating a nice partnership at Palace, but we hope to disrupt that today.’