Loftus-Cheek happy to keep learning from Sarri after hat-trick heroics

Chelsea vs BATE
UEFA Europa League
The Blues midfielder took his chance on Thursday night in the Europa League by netting three times and talked up his relationship with his manager
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Ruben Loftus-Cheek insists he has a good relationship with Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri as he looks to earn more minutes for the Blues in the coming weeks.

Loftus-Cheek sent Sarri a timely reminder of his abilities with his first senior hat-trick to down BATE Borisov at Stamford Bridge on Thursday in what was just his second start under the Italian boss.

A positive loan spell at Crystal Palace last season led to his first England call-up and a place in Gareth Southgate's squad for the World Cup, with many believing this would be the campaign he would break into the Chelsea first-team on a regular basis.

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But the arrivals of Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic, coupled with the return to form of Ross Barkley, have seen 22-year-old Loftus-Cheek remain down the pecking order.

He believes he has what it takes to keep on impressing Sarri, though, with Loftus-Cheek keen to reveal that he has already learned a lot from the former Napoli coach during his short time in west London.

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"He is asking me to improve defensively and positionally," Loftus-Cheek began as he clutched the match ball following a night when his name rang around Stamford Bridge with regularity.

"We are working on it every day in training and he is very demanding with the team. He is so demanding on shape, but also wants you to play freely as well, which is why we can play such free flowing football.

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"For a manager who has been in the game for a long time, it would be daft for me not to take on what he is telling me. He is a top manager. For me to learn from him is great for my development.

"I will keep on doing that. I will keep on listening and learning whenever I'm on the pitch or in training.

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"As a player-manager relationship it works - we both have respect for each other. This is a good relationship.Yes, when you play it is different from training. You get to see the game, feel the game and it is easier to learn in that sense.

"Training is close to it but you still have to work in training, see it, to take it onto the pitch. You can see it more clearly on the pitch. In both training and games is where you get the feel for tactics and the smell of the game.

"I have never doubted my ability. It's just hard sometimes to perform at your best when you are not playing regularly. So it is important to train well, keep your good habits - eat well and sleep well - so that when games like this come along you can be as close to your best physical shape as possible.

"I will keep trying to do that and it's all I can do right now. There is still a long way to go. I want to keep being ambitious, keep improving and see how far I can go."

With just two goals for the club to his name before the visit of the Belarusian champions, the Europa League clash will undoubtedly go down as one of the most special days in Loftus-Cheek's Chelsea career when he looks back on it in years to come.

But the academy product who joined the Blues when he was just an eight-year-old admits that despite his heroics it still pales in comparison to the first time he stepped on the pitch for his boyhood club.

"I think my debut was still more special, just because you dream of that as a kid. The first time I stepped on the pitch for Chelsea at Stanford Bridge was in the Champions League and that was a special night. But this is close.

"I think it [his last hat-trick] was in the Under-13s. It might have been against Charlton. I remember scoring a hat-trick against them when I was young.

"But this was different. A European night under the lights, it is hard to describe the feeling. It's a dream."

Loftus-Cheek has been held up as something of a symbol of Chelsea's failure to integrate their talented academy products into the first team, with their loan programme regularly criticised by outsiders.

Many believe his lack of game time this time around even as an England international is only adding fuel to that fire, but on a night when Callum Hudson-Odoi made his first appearance of the season and with Ethan Ampadu recovering from injury, Loftus-Cheek still believes that the pathway is there from the youth teams to the senior side.

"Congratulations to him," Loftus-Cheek said of Hudson-Odoi's appearance. "He is a very talented player, but he has to keep working hard in training because it's not easy, once you get here, to sustain it and get even higher. it is tough mentally.

"All the players in the team will keep pushing him, Ampadu as well. We have some top talent and we will keep pushing them."

Loftus-Cheek will hope he has done enough to be in Sarri's plans for Sunday's trip to Burnley as the Italian looks to maintain his unbeaten start to life in English football.