Ruben Lotus-Cheek will made his first Premier League start for Chelsea in five months against Aston Villa after the international break, according to under-fire manager Jose Mourinho. The 19-year-old has made three appearances this term, playing 90 minutes in wins over Maccabi Tel Aviv and Walsall, but amid the Blues' troubles Mourinho is ready to deploy the midfielder in the top flight.
Among the that which have contributed to Mourinho's side falling 10 points behind leaders Manchester City has been their soft-centered midfield, with the likes of Cesc Fabregas and Nemanja Matic failing to reach the heights of last season's title-winning campaign. The Portuguese boss has identified this position as a key area of weakness and is ready to turn to the club's youth ranks for solutions.
Loftus-Cheek – who has been called into the England Under-21 squad for the Euro 2017 qualifier against Kazakhstan – has not begun a top-flight match since the penultimate gameday of last season, which saw him play the full 90 minutes as Chelsea were beaten 3-0 by West Bromwich Albion. Impressive displays in Europe and the Capital One Cup have followed this term, and Mourinho is committed to giving him a lengthy run in the team.
"Clearly it is time," the Chelsea boss said after the 3-1 defeat to Southampton, according to the Daily Mail. "Not to play four, five or six kids – some are not ready – but Ruben is a case where he's more ready, and if everything goes normal during the next two weeks, he's a player to start the next game and a run of matches, to try and get that stability as a first-team choice.
"Not to save the season. The profile of the moment and the profile of the [Chelsea] young players makes it a good moment. In difficult moments, what's the best thing? Can the most experienced players cope better? When I don't play John Terry everyone says: 'Why don't you play the captain? The team needs the captain's leadership and personality.'
"With Ruben, it is exactly the same. Ruben, Matic, Fabregas or Ramires? Who can cope the best with the pressure? Maybe with the situation so negative for us, the young player feels less pressure than when the team is top of the league."