Chelsea

Ruben Loftus-Cheek's Chelsea redemption continues with FA Cup masterclass

Sean Walsh
A man in form
A man in form / Mike Hewitt/GettyImages
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For the neutral, it's easy to forget that Ruben Loftus-Cheek spent a season on loan at Crystal Palace.

Well, in truth, it's easy to forget about the imposing midfielder altogether. After a promising start to his career back when Jose Mourinho was in the Stamford Bridge dugout, injuries threatened to derail his progress.

After scarcely featuring under Antonio Conte, Loftus-Cheek was sent south of the River Thames for the 2017/18 season. A stop-start campaign where he was in and out of the side was nevertheless impressive enough to earn a place in Gareth Southgate's England squad for the 2018 World Cup.

That's the regard he was held in, and a promising 2018/19 term followed. Maurizio Sarri was roundly criticised for his use of Jorginho, Mateo Kovacic and Ross Barkley in midfield, but Loftus-Cheek brought a different dimension and was one of their stars of their run to the Europa League final.

But during a charity match with the New England Revolution prior to their showdown with Arsenal in Azerbaijan, he suffered an unfortunate Achilles injury, ruling him out for the majority of the next season and subsequently being sent to Fulham for 2020/21.

This season, however, has been a different story. Well, not the whole season, but the last few months at least.

Chelsea's Premier League charge fell apart in the winter following significant injuries to wing-backs Reece James and Ben Chilwell, with Thomas Tuchel tinkering ever since to find a winning formula again.

In recent weeks, one of his most reliable soldiers has been Loftus-Cheek, who has worked tirelessly to win back his place in the side.

The 26-year-old locked up Toni Kroos in Chelsea's Champions League clash with Real Madrid in midweek, with Los Blancos unable to find an answer to Loftus-Cheek's duel-threat of dynamism and discipline.

Sunday's FA Cup semi-final win over Crystal Palace was a similar story. A stale game at Wembley meant some moments of magic were in order to separate the sides, and Loftus-Cheek duly obliged.

Notably brought on ahead of N'Golo Kante when Kovacic picked up a first-half knock, Loftus-Cheek continually bulldozed his way through the Palace midfield, who were unable to even complete tactical fouls on him.

It was only fitting that he was the one who broke the deadlock with a well-struck thunderbolt from the edge of the area, bringing a tangible impact to a match that was seriously lacking in it.

The midfielder was informed post-match that this strike was his first for Chelsea in three years, shaking his head and commenting that it was 'way overdue'.

"It's been a tough road with injuries and going on loan to find my form again," he said. "But I always believed in myself, I always wanted to play for Chelsea. I've played quite a lot this season so I'm happy.

"It's always been my mentality, the reason why I'm still here is because of my mentality through all the injuries. I keep going, I still believe in myself.

"I said it for many years, my time will come, I'll keep knuckling down and working for it."

Mason Mount doubled the Chelsea lead soon after the opener and Timo Werner was rewarded with the man of the match award, but this was Loftus-Cheek's day.

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