Chelsea midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek is set to leave on loan before the transfer window closes as Frank Lampard attempts to whittle down his bloated squad.
Loftus-Cheek started Chelsea’s opening match at Brighton and Hove Albion but was hooked after an hour and left out of the squad for the games with Liverpool and West Brom.
The 24-year-old has struggled with injuries recently and finds himself down the list of Lampard’s preferred midfield starters when everyone is fit.
Aston Villa, Southampton and West Ham have all been tipped to move for the 10-cap England international and Lampard may allow Loftus-Cheek to play elsewhere for the rest of the season.
“I’m very open with Ruben and we’ve had a couple of conversations over the past week,” Lampard said. “He’s fit as a fiddle and can play week in, week out.
“He would have been playing games earlier if it wasn’t for the lockdown and restart. But there’s a possibility Ruben may go out to play games.
“We hold him in high regard here but that could be a good option for him. If not he’ll be competitive in this squad as well because of the quality he has.
“Hopefully that will be a big plus for us. I’m relaxed about it but I want to find the best path for Ruben and the best path for us. We’ll see over the next week.”
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Loftus-Cheek impressed on loan with Crystal Palace in 2017-18 and was used regularly by Chelsea the following season, featuring 40 times in all competitions.
However, he has since suffered from a succession of injury issues and has struggled to make the most of his opportunities when they have arrived under Lampard.
“He wants to play and the reality is we have a lot of competition in those areas,” the Blues boss added.
“Ruben is versatile and can play different roles in midfield so I was looking forward to working with him. He gives us something different in terms of his physicality, how he plays and how he receives the ball.
“I also think there’s a priority that he plays games – there’s a delicate balance that we need to get right over the next week.
“He’s had a difficult time of it – his injury was a really bad one and he hasn’t played as many minutes as he would have liked for different reasons.
“Just before his injury he was playing well and contributing. We’ll make the decision what’s best for him and best for us.”
Chelsea have made seven signings this year and Lampard acknowledged the importance of offloading some more players before next Monday’s transfer deadline.
“If it’s right for the player and for us then it can be possible,” he said. “The squad is very big but the situation has to be right for us.
“It’s also an uncertain time in terms of what’s going on at the moment. We’re worried about players having to isolate so we have to be comfortable with the squad we have. But there is the possibility a few will move on.”