Ruben Loftus-Cheek has defended Maurizio Sarri’s decision to substitute him during Chelsea’s Europa League semi-final encounter with Eintracht Frankfurt.
Loftus-Cheek handed Chelsea a 28th-minute lead in the return leg at Stamford Bridge before being controversially substituted for Ross Barkley in the second half.
Blues supporters loudly booed Sarri for taking off their goalscorer, but Loftus-Cheek stood by the Italian’s decision to not overuse him.
After struggling to break into the squad at the beginning of the season, the 23-year-old has become a more prominent member of the Chelsea midfield recently.
“The fans obviously didn’t like it but I tried to lift them, because we didn’t need that atmosphere here, but it’s all for a good reason,” said Loftus-Cheek, according to FourFourTwo.
“I’ve played a lot in these last few weeks, more than I’ve done in my career.
“So I think I have to pay attention to my body and take care of myself, because I don’t want another injury.
“When I feel that I’m a liability to the team, because I was getting cramp in my hamstrings just before I came off, and the minute I feel if I sprint it could go or I won’t be able to spring as fast as I can, then it’s just the right decision to put some fresh legs on.”
Despite Loftus-Cheek’s opener, however, Luka Jovic equalised for Eintracht in the second half to level the tie 2-2 on aggregate.
But Chelsea held their nerve to win 4-3 on penalties and set-up an all-London final with Arsenal in Baku on May 29.
“Gianfranco (Zola) asked me five minutes before and I said I’m good, I’m good,” said Loftus-Cheek.
“But then I felt the cramp on a sprint and then thought ‘let’s not risk it’. Obviously, Ross (Barkley) came on and put that penalty away, it all matters.”
The England international has now scored 10 goals and provided five assists in his 39 appearances this season.
“I really appreciate the reception I get from the fans. I’ve been here since eight years old so it’s a dream for me to play in front of these fans at Stamford Bridge, so I’m forever thankful,” said Loftus-Cheek.
“It’s something that will take my game to the next level, scoring goals.
“I believe I’m capable of it, so it’s just about getting in the right positions and that will come with time and experience.
“Technique will improve that as well. But I’ll look to keep on getting more goals.”
Chelsea will next take on Leicester City for their Premier League finale on Sunday, with kick-off set for 16:00 (CET).