Ruben Loftus-Cheek

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Premier League social media wrap: Returning players pumped, others wait

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We know it’s far from a universal vibe, but a large number of Premier League players were quite happy to be arriving to and playing on the training pitches of England on Tuesday.

The coronavirus pause is not over, but players are now allowed to train in small groups in the PL.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

It was good to see Dele Alli smiling and looking healthy after he was robbed and punched last week.

American fans might’ve been distracted by the sight of a smiling and reportedly healthy Christian Pulisic at Chelsea training, but look closer.

Kepa Arrizabalaga’s hair is unusually long, as is N’Golo Kante (because we’re not used to seeing him with much at all).

Toni Rudiger was also pumped to be back, and his post allowed us to catch influential but injury-hampered Ruben Loftus-Cheek.

Let’s hope the midfielder is ready to return to the pitch and make his first appearance since tearing his Achilles tendon in a friendly against New England that cost him an Europa League Final appearance.

Spurs loanee Kyle Walker-Peters was back training with Southampton, though he had a sort of era-appropriate PPE covering his face (and a coach in the background going with the mask).

Not all of Newcastle United and Man City players aren’t back yet, and there’s some serious FOMO from a few of their players.

Up north, it’s goalkeeper Martin Dubravka getting fully kitted and fitted… at home.

And Man City minute-eater Fernandinho hasn’t yet returned, but he’s ready…

Loftus-Cheek injured in Chelsea’s friendly v. New England

AP
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Ruben Loftus-Cheek ruptured his Achilles in Chelsea’s 3-0 friendly win against the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium on Wednesday.

Chelsea have since revealed RLC will undergo surgery and that almost certainly means he will be out for at least six months.

This is a cruel blow for the Englishman, just as he had established himself in the first team at Chelsea.

England manager Gareth Southgate left Loftus-Cheek out of his latest squad and said RLC will miss the upcoming Europa League and UEFA Nations League finals after he left the stadium on crutches and with a protective boot on his left foot.

The powerful midfielder went down under no contact on the pitch in the first half, as he seemed to twist his left ankle in the turf and damaged his Achilles.

Loftus-Cheek, 23, has become a regular starter for Chelsea in recent months and we expected to be named in Gareth Southgate’s England squad for their UEFA Nations League semifinal against the Netherlands on June 6.

Chelsea’s post-season friendly, named “Final Whistle to Hate” raised money for charities combating hate as the west London club continues to focus on the ongoing battle against anti-semitism.

Ross Barkley scored in either half and either side of Olivier Giroud‘s header, as Chelsea used the game as a training exercise ahead of their UEFA Europa League final against Arsenal in Baku, Azerbaijan on May 29.

Many questioned why first team players were asked to travel to Boston to play in this game just over a week before a major European final, including Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri.

And and a serious injury, especially to a player who has become as important as Loftus-Cheek, is the last thing Chelsea would have wanted from this friendly game.

Chelsea survive PK shootout, will face Arsenal in UEL final (video)

Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images
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Chelsea went through the wringer of emotions that is a penalty shootout in the semifinals of a European semifinal on Thursday, and came out the other side as Europa League finalists.

[ MORE: Tottenham pull off second amazing UCL comeback in two days ]

Eintracht Frankfurt matched Chelsea’s 1-1 away result from the first leg and held firm through extra time before bowing out to a pair of fine saves made by Kepa Arrizabalaga. It’ll be Chelsea versus Arsenal in Azerbaijan on May 29.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek put the Blues ahead with a pinpoint finish just before the half-hour mark. Eden Hazard played Loftus-Cheek into tons of space behind on the left side of the Frankfurt penalty area, but the 23-year-old still had lots to do. Loftus-Cheek, who’s finally getting a semi-extended run in the first team (six starts in the last eight games), shaped his body to go for the far post and tucked it just inside the frame to make it 1-0 on the day and 2-1 on aggregate.

The advantage lasted until halftime, but not much longer. Luka Jovic’s days as a Frankfurt player could be numbered (Real Madrid are rumored to have agreed a $67-million deal to bring him to Spain this summer), but he’s making the most of the biggest stage on which he’s played (so far). His equalizer in the 49th minute brought his tally of Europa League goals to double digits. The 21-year-old didn’t just finish the chance, but he helped to create it as well.

[ MORE: Tearful Pochettino hails Spurs “heroes” after another UCL comeback ]

Extra time was more than a little nervy for Chelsea, who required a pair of goal-line clearances during the second period to force the shootout. David Luiz came first, followed not long after by Davide Zappacosta.

Cesar Azpilicueta was the first and only Chelsea player to see his spot kick saved, as Kevin Trapp made an incredible dive to his left and palmed the ball around the post. Then came back-to-back failed attempts for Frankfurt. Martin Hinteregger and Goncalo Paciencia were each denied by Arrizabalaga, who, it should be noted, was left in the game by manager Maurizio Sarri.

That set the stage for Hazard to play the hero’s part and set up another all-Premier League final in Europe, competing the 4-for-4 clean sweep with Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur set to face off for Champions League glory.

Loftus-Cheek, Hudson-Odoi happy to start for Chelsea

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All the schedule congestion, an international break, and two matches in four days forced Maurizio Sarri to finally start Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek on Wednesday against Cardiff City.

They did not disappoint.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 3-0 Brighton and Hove Albion ]

Hudson-Odoi cued up Olivier Giroud for the game’s first goal and Loftus-Cheek had a goal and an assist as Chelsea bossed Brighton and Hove Albion 3-0 at Stamford Bridge.

From the BBC:

“We needed to change. We’re lucky because Callum is doing very well. Loftus has no problem with his back for the first time this season. Giroud is in a good period. We’re lucky.

“Callum played very well and defended very well. He has improved during the season a lot. He’s ready to play 90 minutes in very important matches. The only problem is Ruben, who had cramp in his hamstring after 75 minutes. I want to be sure his back is okay.”

We knew both players had it in them, especially after the star run from Loftus-Cheek at Crystal Palace last season.

Hudson-Odoi and Loftus-Cheek admitted that they were quite ready for their chance to make a proper Premier League impact.

“We have both worked all of our lives for this chance, years of hard work and now we start in a Premier League game together,” Loftus-Cheek said. “That’s good for the academy.”

Hudson-Odoi measured his words, no surprise given his status as a teenager on one of the biggest clubs in the world.

“The manager told me to go and express myself. I feel comfortable, hopefully I did well.”

Chelsea bash Brighton and Hove Albion (video)

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  • Hazard, Loftus-Cheek score beauties
  • Loftus-Cheek adds assist
  • Hudson-Odoi lively, gets assist in first PL start

Ruben Loftus-Cheek had a goal and an assist as Chelsea clobbered Brighton and Hove Albion 3-0 on Wednesday at Stamford Bridge.

Callum Hudson-Odoi had an assist in his first Premier League start, while Olivier Giroud and Eden Hazard also scored.

Chelsea rises fifth with 63 points, level with fourth place Arsenal and a point back of Spurs. Manchester United has 61.

Brighton has 33 points, five points clear of the drop zone.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Hudson-Odoi was making his first start and saw his bid for an opener deflected over the bar.

He also nearly played set-up man, but a cross was headed high by Cesar Azpilicueta.

Giroud was the goal scorer, however, getting his 78th Premier League goal by popping a Hudson-Odoi-produced chance past Mat Ryan.

The 38th minute goal came on Chelsea’s 10th attempt to Brighton’s one.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Hazard buttressed Chelsea’s advantage at the hour mark, taking a pass from Loftus-Cheek and skewering Lewis Dunk before curling home.

Loftus-Cheek got a goal of his own moments later from almost the same distance as Hazard. Cruising.