Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel says Ruben Loftus-Cheek ‘hides talent’ after Palace heroics

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Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel says Ruben Loftus-Cheek needs to be more consistent on the pitch and stop “producing performances where he hides his quality”. Loftus-Cheek came off the bench to score in the Blues’ 2-0 win over Crystal Palace in the FA Cup semi-final on Sunday afternoon, but still received some constructive criticism from his manager.

Chelsea will face Liverpool in next month’s FA Cup final at Wembley after getting the better of Palace in the second half. Patrick Vieira’s side more than held their own in a cagey first half of few chances, but were ultimately blown away by their opponents’ quality after the break.

Loftus-Cheek, who came on in the 25th minute after an injury to Mateo Kovacic, smashed in the opener from a loose ball midway through the second half. Mason Mount doubled Chelsea’s lead with a slick finish into the bottom corner after being played in by Timo Werner.

Joachim Anderson headed over Palace’s best chance at the back post from a corner, but the margin of defeat could have been greater. After emptying his bench, Tuchel’s side finished strongly and Romelu Lukaku hit the post from six yards out, while fellow substitute Hakim Ziyech could not turn in the rebound.

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It was a momentous day for Loftus-Cheek, who had gone 59 games without scoring since netting for Fulham in November 2020, despite firing in 56 shots. He earned some praise from Tuchel, but also an explanation for why he is still not a regular for the Blues.

“Excellent, he was very very strong in the matches against Southampton and Real Madrid, he would have deserved to start,” Tuchel told ITV Sport post-match when asked about his team selection. “But honestly we expected a back four and wanted [Cesar] Azpilicueta as a captain on the field. We knew we have Ruben to make a big impact from the bench, and I’m very happy with him at the moment.”

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Loftus-Cheek has enjoyed a decent run of appearances for Chelsea recently, playing in central midfield as well as at wing-back. The 26-year-old has made 31 appearances across all competitions this season, contributing three assists. Tuchel was asked what he needs to do to become a regular starter.

“Nothing, nothing – this is what he shows in training but this is not enough, he needs to show it on the pitch because he hides his talent and potential for a long time,” he replied. “He’s capable of producing performances that everyone sees, but is also capable of producing performances where he hides his quality.

“He showed that for many many years, this is the way to go and that’s why for him it’s step by step and to continue to grow in confidence.”

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