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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 15 October 2018

Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri to work with Ruben Loftus-Cheek over international break to 'improve from a tactical point of view'

Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson makes it clear he would take midfielder on loan again if the opportunity arises 

Maurizio Sarri has described Ruben Loftus-Cheek as a "great player" but one who needs to work on improving tactically. Reuters
Maurizio Sarri has described Ruben Loftus-Cheek as a "great player" but one who needs to work on improving tactically. Reuters

Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri has said he is happy Ruben Loftus-Cheek was not called up to the England squad as it will mean he can work on improving the midfielder's tactical ability during the international break.

Loftus-Cheek is regarded as one of the brightest prospects in British football, and after impressing on loan at Crystal Palace last season, he earned a place in the England squad for the 2018 World Cup.

Sarri's arrival at Stamford Bridge, and the Italian's preference for deploying three central midfielders, was expected to bolster Loftus-Cheek's first-team opportunities, but the 22-year-old has so far found chances limited. He has made two substitute appearances in the Premier League, totalling 22 minutes of action, with Sarri opting for Mateo Kovacic - on loan from Real Madrid - as the third member of a midfield comprising Italian Jorginho and French World Cup winner N'Golo Kante.

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Even when Kovacic is not selected, Loftus-Cheek's fellow England international Ross Barkley appears to be higher in Sarri's pecking order, leading to suggestions that Loftus-Cheek could seek a January exit from his boyhood club if regular football remains out of reach.

Loftus-Cheek impressed in his first start of the season in Thursday's Europa League victory over Hungary's Vidi, although Sarri insists there is still plenty of work to be done.

"It's better to stay in Cobham," Sarri said about Loftus-Cheek's exclusion from the England squad ahead of Chelsea's Premier League trip to Southampton on Sunday. "At the moment for him, it's very important to have a lot of training. In the last three, four weeks, he hasn't been training a lot.

"Now it's better for him to stay to work. I have seen he is a great player from the technical point of view, from the physical point of view. He has to improve from a tactical point of view."

Should Loftus-Cheek become available in January, Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson has made it clear that he would welcome the chance to take him back to Selhurst Park.

"It is not right to discuss these things because it is a hypothesis that Chelsea are not happy with him," Hodgson told a news conference ahead of Saturday's Premier League clash against Wolverhampton Wanderers.

"I don't like to discuss players in that respect ... What I'm prepared to say, and I have said it on many occasions, is that Loftus-Cheek did an outstanding job for us when he came here.

"We admire him and wish him well. Like other clubs I'm sure, when the day comes when he becomes available for transfer, we will be sticking our nose into that. Whether we will get him again, that's another matter."