Maurizio Sarri has revealed that he is not currently comfortable starting Ruben Loftus-Cheek due to the Chelsea midfielder’s inability to complete 90 minutes.
Loftus-Cheek has struggled throughout his career with back issues and was ruled out for three weeks after being forced off during Chelsea’s FA Cup third-round victory over Nottingham Forest in early January.
The 23-year-old has not started a game since returning, but has appeared as a substitute in each of Chelsea’s last five Premier League games, a pattern that does not look set to change when they face Wolves on Sunday, live on Sky Sports.
“In the last two or three weeks (his back is) better,” Sarri said.
“He has continued training the last two or three weeks. I think his physical condition is not at the top at the moment for playing for 90 minutes.
“The back now is better and better so I think that in two to three weeks he’ll be able to play for 90 minutes.”
Having impressed on loan at Crystal Palace last season and then for England at the World Cup, it was hoped the Chelsea academy product could break into the starting line-up at Stamford Bridge this campaign.
While there has been definite progress with three goals in 14 Premier League appearances, there has been frustration from the club’s supporters over the likes of Loftus-Cheek and fellow homegrown youngster Callum Hudson-Odoi not being given more minutes.
The pair came off the bench to combine for Chelsea’s third goal in Thursday night’s 3-0 Europa League victory over Dynamo Kiev, which will only serve to increase the clamour to see them inserted to the starting line-up.
However, with Chelsea engaged in a close battle for a Premier League top-four finish, Sarri has explained that his priority was to keep his first-choice midfielders Jorginho and N’Golo Kante fresh for the visit of Wolves.
“I wanted Jorginho on the pitch only for 50-55 minutes, I wanted Kante on the pitch only for 40-35 minutes,” Sarri said.
“So I was not able to choose him (Loftus-Cheek) because in my opinion was another substitution.
“But only for this reason because at the moment he’s not able to play for 90 minutes.”