Loftus-Cheek: Chelsea ready for 'mental test' of playing in empty Premier League stadiums

Ruben Loftus-Cheek says playing behind closed doors will prove a mental challenge for Premier League players, but one which Chelsea are ready to rise to.

Frank Lampard’s side resume their league season with a trip to Aston Villa on Saturday, before their first game back at Stamford Bridge against Manchester City on Thursday.

With the signings of Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech confirmed since play was stopped, there is a positive feeling around the club, and Chelsea are hoping that will translate to the pitch.

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Loftus-Cheek hasn’t played yet this season due to a serious Achilles injury, but he says he is now raring to go.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Loftus-Cheek told Chelsea’s official website.

“Playing in front of an empty stadium will feel really, really weird, because we’re used to loud noises and not even being able to hear the bench shout at you.

“Now we’re going to hear everything and it’s going to have that kind of hollow feeling, which is a good mental test for us. I’m definitely looking forward to playing football again, no matter the circumstances.

“I don’t think it’ll be a problem for us, because as soon as you start playing, everything else kind of zones out anyway.

“You’re so focused on the game when you’re playing that sometimes you don’t even notice the crowd when they are there.

“I think this will be the same thing once it starts – you won’t even notice because you’ll be so focused on playing football.”

Loftus-Cheek also spoke about Chelsea’s experience of going into lockdown. The Blues were one of the first football clubs to do so after Callum Hudson-Odoi tested positive for Covid-19.

“You never think this kind of thing will happen, and we went into quarantine earlier than others because Callum had symptoms,” he said. “We didn’t know it was going to stay like that for so long!

“Once everyone knew this was not going to be over in a week, the fitness guys at the club came up with a plan for us to follow to keep us ready, and keep us ticking over until we came back.

“We’ve done some Zoom sessions online with the whole squad, doing some strength work, which was fun. Just to keep the morale there and chat to everyone was good.

“We ended up doing those group sessions twice a week, and there was a lot of banter flying about, which was good – and we obviously got the work done!

“It was just good to talk to the boys and see them. We were all logged into a fitness app too, so we could see what everyone else was doing, running-wise, and that was good to keep the competition up and keep pushing each other.”

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