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Loftus-Cheek reveals how yoga and physio are helping his fight for Chelsea starts

11:00 pm AEDT 8/3/19
Ruben Loftus-Cheek Chelsea 2018-19
The Blues midfielder has given an insight into how he is trying to overcome the injury problems that have stunted his development at Stamford Bridge

Ruben Loftus-Cheek has outlined his frustrations with a chronic back problem that has plagued his career since the age of 17 as he aims to make it in the Chelsea first team.

Under Maurizio Sarri, Loftus-Cheek has made visible progress in his contribution on the pitch and has grown since his loan move to Crystal Palace last season.

The 23-years-old has only made just over 50 appearances for his boyhood club, but he is hoping that physio and yoga can combine to end his injury problems and help him to finally nail down a regular place in Chelsea's starting line-up.

"I was doing well at that point, playing every game, even if it was 90 minutes in a Europa League game and then 30 in the Premier League," Loftus-Cheek said at Stamford Bridge after Chelsea's 3-0 win in the Europa League. "I was doing that for a few weeks, I was doing well, and I wanted to carry on that momentum. But the back problem came again.

"I tried to push through it and manage it, to keep going, but it was one of those where if I’d carried on, I would have done more damage. I was distraught going down the tunnel [against Nottingham Forest]. I knew I just had to wait to get it right.

"I can’t force anything now. I will just do my best to get fit by training and pushing hard and show what I can do with my fitness to the boss. I’ve said that before (it’s behind him) because it has felt really good and then it has come back.

"I do have problems with my back, but I feel like now I am working with the physios, I think we have nailed it. Fingers crossed because I have had it since I was 17 and I have been trying to figure it out, trying to figure my body out.

"It’s been a tough couple of years with it, coming at the wrong time. Hopefully, we have got a routine to manage it now. It’s a muscular problem. I have a big curve in my lower back, and I’m a big powerful guy.

"I’ve been doing yoga. I’m not very good at it, but I have to start somewhere! Working with the physios, they know the best things. We have been working over the past year since I have been in the first team. As I’d get a niggle, you’d rule out a problem. It was just about ruling out all the problems to figure it out.

"When I thought it was right to return to training, I did, and I have had a few cameos now. It’s just about getting that confidence, that fitness, so the manager feels like he can start me in games.

"As a footballer, you want to be free in your mind, you want to feel physically good before you go on the pitch so you can focus on what you want to do. That’s when I had to decide with the physios. I knew I couldn’t play with it anymore."

Loftus-Cheek was closing in on a regular first-team place in December, but he broke down in tears when his back problem forced him off in the FA Cup third-round tie against Nottingham Forest in early January.

His fitness issues also coincided with a drop in form by Chelsea, who had failed to score an away goal for over a month in 2019. Their form has since recovered, with the Blues having won three games in a row, and Loftus-Cheek is proud of how Chelsea have stuck together to keep the club’s targets within reach.

Speaking after Thursday’s Europa League first-leg win over Dynamo Kiev, he added: "We said that before the game how, as we were playing at home first, we wanted to get some advantage for when we go away because these away games are tough. We came out to start strong and could have had a lot more goals in the first half.

"But we got a nice win to take to Kiev. If we can win the Europa League – it is definitely our target – that would be great. Finishing in the top four is another target, so we have to be focused from now on and treat every game massively.

"Yes, we have had some ups and downs, but one thing we have done is stuck together. After the big loss against Bournemouth and Manchester City, things could have fallen apart. But we kept it together in the changing room, stayed tight, stayed as a group, stayed as one.

"We lost together and won together. We have come through it now. We are feeling strong as a group and have bounced back from those times. We are doing well at the minute and want to keep that momentum going."