EPL

Loftus-Cheek set for Chelsea loan exit as Lampard confirms more outgoings possible

By Sports Desk September 28, 2020

Chelsea midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek is set to leave on loan before the transfer window closes as Frank Lampard attempts to whittle down his bloated squad.

Loftus-Cheek started Chelsea's opening match at Brighton and Hove Albion but was hooked after an hour and left out of the squad for the games with Liverpool and West Brom.

The 24-year-old has struggled with injuries recently and finds himself down the list of Lampard's preferred midfield starters when everyone is fit.

Aston Villa, Southampton and West Ham have all been tipped to move for the 10-cap England international and Lampard may allow Loftus-Cheek to play elsewhere for the rest of the season.

"I'm very open with Ruben and we've had a couple of conversations over the past week," Lampard said. "He's fit as a fiddle and can play week in, week out. 

"He would have been playing games earlier if it wasn't for the lockdown and restart. But there's a possibility Ruben may go out to play games.

"We hold him in high regard here but that could be a good option for him. If not he'll be competitive in this squad as well because of the quality he has. 

"Hopefully that will be a big plus for us. I'm relaxed about it but I want to find the best path for Ruben and the best path for us. We'll see over the next week."

Loftus-Cheek impressed on loan with Crystal Palace in 2017-18 and was used regularly by Chelsea the following season, featuring 40 times in all competitions.

However, he has since suffered from a succession of injury issues and has struggled to make the most of his opportunities when they have arrived under Lampard.

"He wants to play and the reality is we have a lot of competition in those areas," the Blues boss added.

"Ruben is versatile and can play different roles in midfield so I was looking forward to working with him. He gives us something different in terms of his physicality, how he plays and how he receives the ball.

"I also think there's a priority that he plays games – there's a delicate balance that we need to get right over the next week. 

"He's had a difficult time of it – his injury was a really bad one and he hasn't played as many minutes as he would have liked for different reasons. 

"Just before his injury he was playing well and contributing. We'll make the decision what's best for him and best for us."

Chelsea have made seven signings this year and Lampard acknowledged the importance of offloading some more players before next Monday's transfer deadline.

"If it's right for the player and for us then it can be possible," he said. "The squad is very big but the situation has to be right for us. 

"It's also an uncertain time in terms of what's going on at the moment. We're worried about players having to isolate so we have to be comfortable with the squad we have. But there is the possibility a few will move on."

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    Madrid ran out 3-1 winners at Camp Nou on Saturday but were on the back foot at 1-1 prior to a spot-kick awarded against Clement Lenglet.

    Sergio Ramos went down in dramatic fashion following a tug from Lenglet in the area, with the VAR then encouraging referee Juan Martinez Munuera to assess the incident.

    He awarded a penalty, which Ramos scored, but Koeman claimed the Madrid captain had first committed a foul.

    "Is it a penalty? For me, it is not a penalty," said Koeman, whose side cancelled out Federico Valverde's opener through Ansu Fati but saw any hopes of rescuing a result late on dashed by Luka Modric's goal.

    "I hope they can explain it to me about the use of VAR here in Spain. The VAR can be very good, but for all teams.

    "I have not spoken with Lenglet about the play. First, it is Ramos foul on Lenglet for taking him by the shirt. Once again, for me, it is not a penalty.

    "It is normal for Real Madrid players to do their best so that the referee awards a penalty.

    "I don't want to talk about this penalty anymore. What is clear is that it has been decisive in the game."

    The victory lifted Madrid above Real Sociedad to the top of LaLiga, while Barcelona sit 12th with two defeats, two wins and a draw from their five league matches under Koeman.

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    Consecutive defeats and some rather loud questions about the future of Zinedine Zidane meant Saturday's game at Camp Nou was one he dare not lose. For Koeman, this was a chance to go for the jugular, to show LaLiga and the watching world what improvements he has made to Barcelona since taking over in August.

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    He went, as expected, with Barca's first starting 4-2-3-1 in a Clasico since at least 2005-06, but his line-up was still puzzling. Ansu Fati is a rare talent with a robustness under pressure to match – and, of course, he scored here to cancel out Federico Valverde's opener – but Pedri, another 17-year-old, was chosen ahead of Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele as two of Barca's most expensive signings again began on the bench.

    The two France forwards are hardly untouchables in this side, but starting a player of such limited experience as Pedri was a gamble that didn't pay off. He completed 79.5 per cent of his passes, the lowest rate of any starting player for Barca, and failed to have a shot or create a chance. It was a surprise that it took until the 81st minute for Koeman to bring him off.

    By the time Griezmann and Dembele were summoned in the second half, with Barca chasing the game, it was too little, too late. Sergio Ramos, the major-general of Zidane's fiercest battles, had seen to that.

    The Madrid captain can claim to be the most critical asset to either side of this famous rivalry, Messi included. Zidane had insisted this week he would not use Ramos were he not 100 per cent fit, but it sounded a hollow threat. Those chastening defeats to Cadiz and Shakhtar Donetsk had shown the boss that playing Ramos here was worth the risk.

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    He capped his display by stopping a late Messi run with an almost impudent back-foot challenge, the kind that will likely have fan accounts on social media sharing the footage every week until the reverse fixture.

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    With Saturday's clash at Camp Nou level at 1-1 in the second half after early goals from Federico Valverde and Ansu Fati, Ramos went down in the Barca box.

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    Wins at Barca are always worthy of celebration for Madrid, but this success was especially precious after consecutive home defeats to Cadiz and Shakhtar Donetsk.

    Ramos played just 45 minutes across those matches due to a knee problem and was delighted by the LaLiga champions' response in Catalonia.

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    Ramos was influential at both ends of the field, with Madrid requiring their skipper to lead a determined defensive stand between his goal and Modric's.

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    He won seven of his 10 duels and all three in the air as Madrid batted away wave after wave of Barcelona attack over a 25-minute spell.

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