Ruben Loftus-Cheek, ENGLAND’S forgotten man of four years, might just perfectly time a late World Cup heat.
And you can bet he’s one of the few to say it’s more likely this winter than next summer.
Chances are he wouldn’t make it if it were in July.
What we do know, however, is that Gareth Southgate was a huge fan.
And judging by today’s evidence, it certainly wouldn’t be a surprise if the England boss had started putting his name back on a few lists here and there.
There is still work to be done if Loftus-Cheek, 26, is to force his way onto the plane to Qatar.
But with seven months to go, time is on his side – and his form is undoubtedly going in the right direction now.
presented three starts at the 2018 World Cupthe smart money then was that Loftus-Cheek was one of the first names on the squad list in Qatar.
Crippling injuries and a painfully slow recovery to reach those heights soon put an end to that.
When loaned out to Fulham England couldn’t have been further off the radar last season. Forget the Three Lions, you were wondering if he would ever play for Chelsea again.
So, almost 12 months later, it was one hell of a turn.
That Tuchel trusted Loftus-Cheek on the biggest stage ever – surely to the surprise of even his greatest admirers – says it all.
was it perfect Absolutely not.
But playing in an unnatural mixed role on the right flank, in the enemy Bernabeu pocket, Loftus Cheek proved beyond a doubt that he’s back for good.
While the rest of Chelsea’s starters are well established in settings like this after last season’s exploits, Loftus-Cheek isn’t there yet.
A week before his Porto team-mates won the Champions League, he was loaned out to Fulham and hauled out at half-time as the Cottagers lost their last game of the season.
However, Tuchel is clearly convinced with his 30th appearance of the season tonight.
There were ups and downs throughout the campaign, but this was to be a turning point in his blues career.
Playing down the right – sometimes full-back, sometimes midfielder, sometimes flying winger – was a shaky start.
Passes went wrong, promising situations were softened and, to be honest, Loftus-Cheek looked a little lost.
Thomas Tuchel barely stopped barking and gesturing in his direction.
But on that swim or swim night, Loftus-Cheek refused to go down.
Closer on the left flank than the right flank for the Blues opener, it was his – somewhat heavy, natural – touch with Timo Werner before Mason Mount was brought in.
His run in the infield added the extra man and Mount was in in no time.
Loftus-Cheek settled from there and played a crucial role in defense and offense The Blues took a 3-0 lead.
Not everything went according to his wishes – this was not a world-class performance.
But his athleticism and physicality give Chelsea another engine in the middle of the park and Tuchel’s plan to move him down the middle largely thwarted Luka Modric and Toni Kroos.
Looking back, Loftus-Cheek will have moments when he knows he could have done better had he delivered the cross or the final pass.
Tactical flexibility and the ability to play in multiple positions doesn’t help everyone, but it could be key to their winter.
If you hit the ground running next season, a few more chapters in his England story could be written.
https://www.thesun.co.uk/sport/18247589/ruben-loftus-cheek-world-cup-england-squad-chelsea/ Ruben Loftus-Cheek could make a late World Cup run into England’s squad with his Chelsea performances