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 ]

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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.

Chelsea extremely fortunate in comeback v. Cardiff City

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  • Camarasa gives hosts lead
  • Azpilicueta scores offside equalizer
  • Controversial non-red before Chelsea winner

Controversial poor calls marred what could’ve been a wonderful day for Cardiff City, as Chelsea came back to win 2-1 in Wales on Sunday.

Cesar Azpilicueta scored an offside goal and Ruben Loftus-Cheek nabbed a winner moments after Chelsea was absolved a pretty obvious red card for denial of a goal scoring opportunity.

Cardiff City manager Neil Warnock stood in front of the referee Craig Pawson’s maligned unit to applaud fans after the match.

Victor Camarasa put Cardiff ahead just after halftime, and Cardiff was unlucky not to take three points (let alone one).

The Bluebirds remain five points back of safety, while Chelsea moves level on points with fifth place Arsenal. The 60-point total is one fewer than Spurs and Manchester United.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

As expected, Chelsea had most of the early play, but Lee Peltier did hit Kepa Arrizabalaga with a strike just after the half hour mark.

And the Blues paid for their sleepy first half moments after the start of the second, with fine first touch passing leading to Camarasa’s side-footed wonder.

Harry Arter chopped down substitute Hazard in the 54th minute to give the Blues a prime free kick from the left, but Chelsea was unable to convert the opportunity.

Sean Morrison looked set to deny Chelsea its equalizer with two timely interventions, but the Blues went level off a corner when Azpilicueta nodded past Neil Etheridge.

Antonio Rudiger was shown a yellow card after taking down Kenneth Zohore in what seemed to be a clear denial of a goal scoring opportunity.

And as sure as Cardiff boss Warnock berated the fourth ref, Chelsea scored its winner moments later through a clever Loftus-Cheek header.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

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Gunn helps Saints to point at Chelsea

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  • Blues have 72 percent possession
  • Gunn makes several big saves
  • Morata goal ruled offside

Angus Gunn‘s first Premier League start saw a clean sheet and a big point for Southampton, who drew Chelsea 0-0 at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.

Gunn was aided by the linesman’s flag, as Alvaro Morata did appear to have a goal in the second half only to be ruled offside.

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Saints sat in to stymy Chelsea, and Eden Hazard nearly defied it in the 34th minute. Southampton keeper Angus Gunn was able to block the close-range shot.

Young Southampton defender Yan Valery was able to flick an Alvaro Morata shot out for a corner in the 40th.

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Kepa Arrizabalaga moved well to stop Stuart Armstrong‘s attempted opener early in the second half.

Gunn then stopped Hazard again when the Belgian cut in to shoot in the 59th.

Morata was controversially ruled offside and saw a goal taken off the board by the linesman’s flag.

Gunn made another stop on Morata when Cesc Fabregas and Ruben Loftus-Cheek combined to set up the Spaniard.

Saints got a big tackle from Maya Yoshida when N'Golo Kante moved into the box late in the match.

Reports: Loftus-Cheek wanted by multiple clubs for January loan

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According to a number of reports across Europe, Ruben Loftus-Cheek is a wanted man and Chelsea could be persuaded to sell this winter.

Reports in England suggested Friday that Loftus-Cheek was wanted by West Ham and Bournemouth, both of which want a loan for the rest of the season at least, and are heavily interested in persuading Chelsea to add a permanent purchase option as well. Should Chelsea put Loftus Cheek up for sale, it would likely spur even more clubs into action, given his solid performances both for club and country over the past six months.

The 22-year-old has impressed new manager Maurizio Sarri with his hard working attitude, with the Blues boss mentioning many times that other young players would have bailed after receiving such little playing time under a new manager, but he’s been impressed by the England international who has worked in training to learn his new boss’s tactics. Still, there is no place for him in the Chelsea squad, unable to find time in a crowded midfield that includes N'Golo Kante, Jorginho, Mateo Kovacic, Cesc Fabregas, and Ross Barkley.

As a result, Loftus-Cheek has earned just 221 Premier League minutes this season, along with 400 Europa League minutes, and he has cashed in with a whopping six goals in his 11 total appearances. He has impressed enough to earn appearances in each of Chelsea’s last three Premier League matches, although only one of those was via the starting lineup.

Still, he may ultimately choose that he needs to play regularly, and there could be opportunities outside of England as well. According to Italian publication Tuttosport, AC Milan is interested as well. Milan midfielder Lucas Biglia is injured and on-loan Blues yoiungster Tiemoue Bakayoko has not performed up to standards and with Milan crashing out of the Europa League in the group stage. While Loftus-Cheek wouldn’t exactly be a direct replacement for those more defensive-minded midfielders, it would generally add depth to Milan’s depleted midfield.

It will be a difficult decision for both parties, but should either side believe moving on is the best option, there will clearly be no shortage of suitors.