Jose Mourinho says Ruben Loftus-Cheek is ready to start tomorrow’s Barclays Premier League game against Aston Villa.
The Chelsea manager, speaking at his pre-match press conference at Cobham, indicated the midfielder, who scored for England Under-21s in midweek, could be handed his first Premier League start of the season against Tim Sherwood’s side, while also explaining his options for coping with the absence of the injured Branislav Ivanovic.
‘I have four solutions: I have Azpilicueta, I have the adaptation of Zouma or Ramires and I have Ola Aina, an 18-year-old who has never played a Premier League game but he’s a boy with lots of potential. He’s also an option.
‘It depends on matches, opponents, the moment, but we have solutions.’
On the subject of Loftus-Cheek he added: ‘Ruben has been with us since January, working with us every day, having the opportunity to play some matches, having an evolution physically, mentally, tactically. I think he’s going to be a really top player. He’s ready.’
Tomorrow’s game is the first since our defeat to Southampton, and Mourinho explained how he and his managerial team monitored the players during the recent international break.
‘One of the reasons why we paid such special attention to these two national team fixtures was to try to understand things,’ he said.
‘With the first fixtures, I watched every match involving my players, some live and some later. In the second fixture I went to the Spanish game, Silvinho went to Serbia, Jose went to Belgium, Rui controlled South America and Steve was with the FA, the England Under-21s.
‘What I analysed in this period was that no player was better in the national team than they are with us, so it’s not their habitat which is making them play better or worse. At this moment they are what they are, which gives me total confidence that it will be here that we will improve them and they will go back to their normality.’
Mourinho, who revealed he will be appealing the punishment handed out by the FA for comments he made after the Southampton game, spoke of the importance of returning to winning ways as soon as possible.
‘Every game is a must-win for different reasons,’ he said. ‘In my approach every game is a must-win and when we don’t win it’s always a disappointment or frustration.
‘We cannot run away from the reality of the Premier League table. Obviously we know we will not be relegated, we know that in a couple of months we will be in a position where we normally have to be, but the reality now, today, tomorrow and before the game starts is the reality of the numbers, and the numbers are very cruel but objective. We need points.’