Ross Barkley believes it is fair to say that Chelsea are title challengers this season, saying that the squad containing players who have won it before makes them capable for a shot at the Premier League trophy.
Barkley capped off a sensational week with a fine performance in the Blues’ 3-0 defeat of Southampton. Recalled to the England squad by Gareth Southgate last Thursday, the midfielder proceeded to impress against the Saints, playing a vital part in the west London side’s opener at Saint Mary’s. After winning the ball back with a crunching tackle deep in the Southampton half, Barkley threaded the ball to Eden Hazard who made no mistakes in front of goal at the half-hour mark.
In the 57th minute, Barkley crowned his display with his first strike for the club since moving from Everton last January, stabbing home Olivier Giroud’s acrobatic cross-shot from close. Speaking to the club’s website, the England midfielder reflected on his superb game at Southampton.
“It was a fantastic result for us, and not only that, for me to get my first goal was fantastic,” said the 24-year-old. “I feel like I have been at a high level for a couple of years, but it’s just about producing performances on game day.
“Last season I had a difficult time with injuries, but on the training pitch I have felt strong and confident and I have built on that. As the season goes on I am sure I’ll continue to improve and show people what I am capable of.”
The victory puts Maurizio Sarri’s side at second place in the Premier League table, level on points but behind Manchester City on goal difference and eight matches into the campaign, the former Toffees ace believes that Chelsea are rightly considered title contenders.
“We are right in there. We have got the players who have achieved that success before, and we believe we are capable of doing that,” continued Barkley. “We’re getting used to the way the manager wants us to play and we’ll continue to improve. We are taking each month as it comes, setting our targets, and hopefully at the end of the season we will get trophies.”
Finally, the midfielder expressed his delight at making his return to the Three Lions setup in over a year, something he had targeted for some time. His last appearance for England was over two years ago and while most recently called up by Southgate in March 2017, his participation was limited to the bench. His return to the squad sees the 22-capped midfielder eager to wear his nation’s colours once again.
“It means the world to me. There’s no better feeling than playing for your country,” said Barkley. “I am going to keep working hard and the rewards will come.”
Barkley hopes to see action for England when they face Croatia and Spain in the UEFA Nations League before returning to club football in a fortnight, wherein the Blues host Manchester United at Stamford Bridge.