Ruben Loftus-Cheek looked disappointed to be replaced during Chelsea’s win over Frankfurt (Picture: PA Images)Maurizio Sarri has defended his substitution of Ruben Loftus-Cheek during Chelsea’s Europa League semi-final win over Eintracht Frankfurt by insisting that the midfielder was suffering from cramp.
The 23-year-old scored his tenth goal of the season after 28 minutes to put Chelsea 1-0 up on the night with a composed finish after being slipped through by Eden Hazard, however, he was replaced by Ross Barkley four minutes from time.
That decision was met by a chorus of boos inside Stamford Bridge as supporters voiced their displeasure at Sarri removing Loftus-Cheek as extra-time beckoned. Chelsea eventually went on to win on penalties with Barkley converting from the spot.
Loftus-Cheek also looked unhappy at being taken off, throwing his hands up in the air after seeing his number flash across the electronic board before having a discussion with his manager by the touchline as he made his way to the bench.
Loftus-Cheek gave Chelsea the lead with a well-taken finish (Picture: Getty)Explaining his decision to take Loftus-Cheek off, Sarri said: ‘It’s not serious but he had the usual cramp after 75 minutes. There is no preparation for penalties because you can kick very well on the training ground but the pressure is different. You need a great personality so it’s useless to try penalties.
‘Now we need to rest. Unfortunately, we have to go to the United States but we have 10 days to prepare for the final and we have to recover energy.’
Following an excellent 2017-18 season which saw him play regularly for Crystal Palace and feature for England during their run to the World Cup semi-finals, Loftus-Cheek found himself out-of-favour at the start of the current campaign under Sarri.
The Italian was initially critical of Loftus-Cheek’s tactical understanding but the Chelsea academy graduate has featured more prominently over the past couple of months, scoring four goals and registering three assists in his last ten matches.
Earlier this week, Loftus-Cheek pledged his future to the club despite being in and out of the starting XI by saying: ‘It’s looking good so there’s no reason why I should think about leaving Chelsea.’
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