Thomas Tuchel has hailed Ruben Loftus-Cheek for thriving even amid Chelsea’s crowded midfield selection battle.
Chelsea host Manchester United on Sunday looking to end another weekend top of the Premier League.
The Blues will be without France’s World Cup-winning dynamo N’Golo Kante, who has a knee injury, and Croatia midfielder Mateo Kovacic, sidelined with hamstring trouble.
But they will be able to call on Loftus-Cheek, who has hit top form after finally shaking off his long-term Achilles problem and could feature again at the base of midfield.
And Blues boss Tuchel has lauded the 25-year-old academy graduate for proving his class all over again, even in a position where Chelsea are blessed with particular depth.
“I see the potential and I think he knows about his potential,” said Tuchel.
“Since he was an academy player everyone was very aware about his potential.
“But the next step is to show it to everyone. Everybody in the stadium must go home and know how good and how strong Ruben is.
“That is the next step, to actually put the potential on the street and drive the car as fast as possible.
“This is what he’s doing for many weeks otherwise he would not play, otherwise there would be no chance for him to play, because this is about performance.
“He deserves to play and he deserved to play some weeks ago.
“He’s in competition with N’Golo Kante, with Jorginho, with Mateo Kovacic and Saul, so he’s in one of the toughest competitions for minutes on the pitch.
“But I can only repeat I am still happy with Ruben, he was part of a fantastic performance (against Juventus) and this is what we expect because we can expect it from him and we will stay very demanding because of his potential.”
Chelsea will host a United side again in a state of flux, with Michael Carrick on the touchline as interim head coach after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s sacking.
Ralf Rangnick is expected to arrive shortly to manage the Red Devils until the summer, with Mauricio Pochettino still in the frame to take the long-term Old Trafford helm.
Tuchel insisted United cannot be discounted as silverware challengers even despite a turbulent few weeks.
Asked if he had expected more from United this term, Tuchel replied: Yes, I was, and maybe I still am.
“I would never write anybody off, not in this league and not in this game, and certainly not a big club like this.
“They are very experienced individually and it’s a top-level group of players, and this is still the case.
“Part of the challenge for our performance on Sunday is to stop them from performing.”