‘He's very important’: Azpilicueta says Chelsea teammate has got so much better this season

Cesar Azpilicueta has hailed fellow Chelsea co-worker Ruben Loftus-Cheek for consistently expanding his repertoire throughout the campaign.    

As quoted by The Athletic, Azpilicueta noted the midfielder’s upward trajectory following Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final victory over Crystal Palace.

Ruben’s redemption

Loftus-Cheek has enjoyed one of his best chapters in a blue jersey in the past eight months, capping off such a term with a weekend to remember.

Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Having started the previous two matches, the 26-year-old was surprisingly left on the bench at Wembley as Chelsea and Palace clashed swords.

But an injury to Mateo Kovacic just before the 30-minute mark allowed the Cobham academy graduate to enter the fray earlier than expected.

He did not pass up the golden opportunity to impress under the fabled arch.

With the game pretty well poised – thanks to astute defending from the Eagles – a moment of pizazz was needed to ignite the contest.

Fortunately for Chelsea, one of their own provided the sprinkling of style.

Kai Havertz found some rare room in Palace’s box and was able to cut the ball back into a dangerous area.

Lurking just inside the 18-yard-line was Loftus-Cheek, who lit rip an absolute thunderbolt past the helpless Jack Butland.

Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images

The blue section behind the goal erupted into celebration as the player jumped for joy on the pitch.

His own festivities were probably doubled considering it was the first time he had scored for Chelsea since May 2019.

RLC no longer needs TLC

Ask Loftus-Cheek and he will probably say that strike tops all the other moments he’s enjoyed this season, one that’s got continual better as the days have rolled by.

“We have seen the improvement and he can play in several positions as well,” said Azpilicueta.

“He has always delivered (this season) and been open, trying his best for the team. He is very important.

“In the last couple of years he has lacked this consistency of playing, he had a couple of injuries. When he was in his best moment, he then had an injury.

Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images

“But he has been working a lot on his fitness, the way he recovers after games and prepares for them. We are seeing the results.

“I have known Ruben since he was 17. I am very happy for him because he is so strong physically, he scored a nice goal. He deserves all the performances he is doing.”

Now stepping into what should be the peak of his career, Loftus-Cheek cannot afford to slow down.

He needs to add more goals like the one against Palace and assists to truly achieve the huge potential stored inside him.

Make that happen and Gareth Southgate could restore England’s former golden child.

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Nathaniel is a football journalist who graduated from the University of Derby. He has worked at Burton Albion as part of their media team for two years. Nathaniel produces regular articles for the club’s official website and match-day programme. He covered the 2018 U20 Women’s World Cup in Brittany and has reported from grounds ranging from non-league up to the Premier League.