The Ross Barkley and Ruben Loftus-Cheek conundrum: One or the other for Chelsea and England?
maxbet After Ross Barkley was selected ahead of Ruben Loftus-Cheek in the England squad on Thursday afternoon, it was roles reversed come Thursday evening's Europa League win over Vidi. With places a premium for club and country, the duo's battle has only just begun, writes Michael Hincks.
On Wednesday, Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri backed the "improving" Barkley to return to Gareth Southgate's England squad. The midfielder was equally as bullish, stating his performances had warranted a recall.
Come Thursday, the 24-year-old was rewarded with a place in the 25-man squad, ending what has been an 18-month exodus from the national set-up, while you have to go back to May 2016 for the last time he actually featured for England.
Barkley will hope to end that two-year wait against Croatia next week, live on Sky Sports, maxbet but any celebratory mood he may have been in would not have lasted long on Thursday, for he found himself out of the Chelsea XI, with Loftus-Cheek - omitted from England's squad after getting the nod in September - starting ahead of him.
It seems this town ain't big enough for the both of them.
Illness and injuries have hampered Loftus-Cheek so far this season, with the 22-year-old recording his first start under Sarri at Barkley's expense in the 1-0 win over Vidi at Stamford Bridge.
Barkley, meanwhile, was a second-half substitute, replacing Loftus-Cheek after 66 minutes as Chelsea searched for the opener, which came four minutes later thanks to Alvaro Morata, who cut a relieved figure when stroking home what proved to be the winner.
It means Loftus-Cheek and Barkley are yet to share the pitch for Chelsea this season. It may seem slightly unfair to point out, given Thursday was only Loftus-Cheek's third appearance, but one has now replaced the other in two of those games - could a pattern be emerging?
With Jorginho, N'Golo Kante, Cesc Fabregas and maxbet Mateo Kovacic for company in midfield, opportunities must be seized upon by Chelsea's English contingent, and while Loftus-Cheek and Barkley are in the mix, Danny Drinkwater is struggling to even make the bench.
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