Belfast Telegraph

Chelsea have no margin for error in tight battle to earn a top-four spot, says Loftus-Cheek

High aim: Ruben Loftus-Cheek wants a perfect end to season
High aim: Ruben Loftus-Cheek wants a perfect end to season

By Nick Purewal

Ruben Loftus-Cheek believes Chelsea need to win all of their six remaining matches to secure a top-four Premier League finish.

Midfielder Loftus-Cheek clipped into the top corner from 18 yards for a fine finish as Chelsea routed Brighton 3-0 at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night.

The 23-year-old then called on the Blues to produce their best winning streak of the campaign to seal that all-important top-four berth for Champions League qualification.

Loftus-Cheek knows the size of the task, with trips to Liverpool and Manchester United yet to come, but insisted Maurizio Sarri's men are a force to be reckoned with when playing at a high tempo.

Loftus-Cheek said: "We need to win all of them, it is that tight.

"Every game and every three points matters. That's why the win at Cardiff was massive, to keep us in the running.

"We need to win these games at home, and when we go away, they are massive games to win. It's so tight that we need all of them."

Chelsea host West Ham on Monday night, with Burnley and Watford still to visit Stamford Bridge.

The Blues face hugely testing trips to title-chasing Liverpool and top-four rivals United, and will take on Leicester at the King Power Stadium in their final league encounter this term.

Loftus-Cheek remains confident Chelsea have what it takes to produce a string of league victories, insisting the Blues are at their best when playing at speed.

"I think we've just got to do what we're doing at home," Loftus-Cheek said. "We played really well and controlled the game (against Brighton) throughout.

"If we play fast like we can, then I don't think teams can live with us. And we've got to take that confidence on the road with us to play like this."

Callum Hudson-Odoi celebrated his first Premier League start by teeing up Olivier Giroud's opener in a composed performance from the teenage England star.

Fellow academy graduate Loftus-Cheek swept home the goal of the night, but not before Eden Hazard turned Lewis Dunk inside out and dispatched a fine strike of his own.

Loftus-Cheek revealed he and Hazard had joked about who produced the finer finish, before revealing how Sarri tweaked Chelsea's tactics at half-time.

"I said mine was better, but he said he got a chop in before, so I think we're even," said Loftus-Cheek. "It was good to get the winning goal against Cardiff then get an opportunity to help the team win. So it's been a good couple of games.

"In the first half, Brighton sat deep, and it was frustrating for me and N'Golo (Kante) just to try to get a touch on the ball because they were so tight and compact.

"So we ended up not making effective play or being in effective positions.

"So at half-time, the manager said, 'Just stay high, and let David (Luiz) come with the ball in the space'.

"Those goals came from fast play, one touch round the corners to open them up."

Brighton boss Chris Hughton hopes Solly March can shake off a calf issue in time for tomorrow's FA Cup semi-final with Manchester City, revealing he is still weighing up his starting XI.

He said: "I haven't picked my team; it will have to be a team I think can do the club justice and produce the best opportunity we have of getting something."

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