Loftus-Cheek needs time but Chelsea miss his goals - Lampard

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Ruben Loftus-Cheek Chelsea 2018-19
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The Blues midfielder made his return to first-team training on Friday after a long spell out with injury

Frank Lampard feels Ruben Loftus-Cheek's goalscoring ability have particularly been missed at Chelsea as the midfielder returned to first-team training after an eight-month absence

The Blues players are buoyed by the return of the 24-year-old, who ended last season as a regular starter under Maurizio Sarri before rupturing his Achilles tendon in a post-season friendly against New England Revolution.

Loftus-Cheek will now train with the U16's before progressing to work with the U18's squad and then the U23's.

Lampard showed his trust in Loftus-Cheek by facilitating a new contract for the England international. However, the Blues boss did move to manage expectations amid the positive images posted online on Friday night of the player training.

"I think you will miss Ruben; I don’t care who you are. You’ll miss his abilities. His natural physique, his ability to move the ball well and score the goals like he did last season, that has to be a big part of his game as well," Lampard told reporters.

"Of course, we’ve missed a player of that level and it is nice and put a smile on everyone’s face on Friday because he is popular with his team-mates too. A smile on everyone’s face to see him back.

"It was the first day with us fully on Friday and it was a light session so that suited him. He has a fair way to go still, and I'm not pessimistic there. He just needs a full week training with us first, a tough week.

"Then he will need some U23 games, and again I think the break comes at a nice time for him to work and we’ll gauge it the other side of that break and see where he is. It might be too early [to face Leicester in the U23's on Friday].

"The week’s training is the important thing because he hasn’t had that at first-team level. Then we will consider the games after that."

Chelsea beat Hull City 2-1 away at the KCOM Stadium but the next face Leicester City in the Premier League who currently sit above them in the table in third place.

Lampard has become accustomed to playing without Loftus-Cheek but in recent weeks he has also been without Christian Pulisic. The Blues manager says there is a small chance the USMNT star could return for the match at the King Power Stadium, but that he expects he will return after the winter break.

"He is hopefully going to be training in the middle of next week," he added. "Leicester will be very tight, but hopefully after the break, it might fall at quite a nice time to get him properly match fit."

Along with Fikayo Tomori, Mateo Kovacic was one of the top performers in the FA Cup fourth-round win against the Championship side to stake his claim for more match time in the league.

Kovacic ran the game from midfield with a dominating performance and Lampard said he was part of the conversation to turn the Croatian's Real Madrid loan move into a £40.3 million [€48m/$52m] move last summer.

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"[Kovacic] was the one that we could bring in because of the situation," Lampard said. "I watched him last year and I liked him from afar. It maybe wasn’t the easiest year for him and some times his started, some times he didn’t.

"But I just saw a natural talent in the way that he can take people out of midfield and travel really quickly with the ball and play really nice combinations. I think it’s not the norm, always, you have a high level of that.

"But there are other parts of his game that we want him to improve. We want him to score more goals and defensively when he is in deep defensive areas, of course, he has to be very aware to pick up runners and do that job as well. I liked him. I was part of that process and I want to work with him more.”

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