Ruben Loftus-Cheek has revealed his delight at making his first start in a Chelsea shirt since January 2017.

On the back of a strong World Cup showing with England, Loftus-Cheek returned to Stamford Bridge determined to make an impression under new head coach Maurizio Sarri in the pre-season. The 22-year-old made two substitute appearances so far in the new campaign but foot and back issues hampered Loftus-Cheek’s thrust to the Chelsea starting XI.

He finally made his long-awaited start under Sarri – also his first start in a Chelsea shirt since January 2017 as he spent the last season on loan at Crystal Palace – playing 66 minutes in the Blues’ 1-0 triumph against Vidi in the Europa League and the England international spoke of his joy at being back on the pitch as a starter, citing the key role his patience played throughout his injury struggles.

“It’s good to be back out there,” said Loftus-Cheek in an interview posted on the club’s official website. “I had a niggle on my back which I had to take carefully, because I’ve had a lot of injuries there. I just had to stay patient with that really. It felt good.”

Having just returned to full training, Loftus-Cheek was left out of Gareth Southgate’s squad for their upcoming Nations League games against Croatia and Spain yet the England midfielder acknowledges he needs to work on his fitness levels in order to get back to the Three Lions setup. “I’ll build up my fitness and hopefully I can have a good block of training and football,” Loftus-Cheek added.

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Chelsea’s unbeaten start in the league has drawn praise from all over yet it is Sarri’s fresh method with which the west London club undertook this successful run that really took many gushing. Loftus-Cheek revealed his admiration of the former Napoli schemer’s style of play before adding he believes the Blues can still reach another level.

“It’s a positive, always on the front foot, wanting to press and attacking football, creative football,” said the midfielder. “I still feel we’ve got a lot of potential and we’re still winning games. It’s very exciting to see what this team can do this season.”