Gary Cahill believes Ruben Loftus-Cheek has shown he is now ready to press for regular first team action after scoring his first Chelsea goal in the FA Cup victory over Scunthorpe.
Loftus-Cheek, 19, will hope his efforts after appearing as a substitute in Sunday’s third round tie will be enough to earn him a starting spot when West Bromwich Albion visit Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.
The London-born midfielder has been on the fringes of the squad since being introduced by Jose Mourinho at the end of last season and his weekend goal helped his side extend the unbeaten start to Guus Hiddink’s regime following the dismissal of Mourinho.
Chelsea centre-back Cahill is convinced Loftus-Cheek can make a similar impact to that made by Delle Alli at Tottenham this season.
“I’m delighted for him, he’s had to be patient and he’s worked really hard in training,” Cahill told Chelsea’s website.
“He’s a great kid who works really hard at his game; he’s been chomping at the bit, he wants to get involved, he wants to play.
“He’s shown that patience and he came on and took his chance. His performance was great and, as a young boy, you just want to do everything right when you come on, especially at home with the crowd here.
“You might not get too many opportunities when you’re young so to come on and do as well as he did I was really pleased for him.
“For me, he has everything you need to become a top player. Dele Alli’s rise has been incredibly fast, incredibly quick, so why can’t he do it?”
Last season’s Premier League champions will record back to back league victories for the first time this season if they can beat Albion.
A disastrous first half of the campaign has left the club in the bottom half of the league, 13 points away from the Champions League places.
Hiddink admits the challenge of closing the gap on the top four may prove beyond his side, even if they can maintain the progress they have shown since the change in the dug-out.
But three successive clean sheets are a sign the west London club is becoming more resilient, although they have a lack of options up front, particularly with Diego Costa picking up an injury against Scunthorpe that means he is doubtful for the visit of Albion.
Radamel Falcao is also sidelined and with Eden Hazard unlikely to return, Loic Remy could start up front.
West Brom manager Tony Pulis, meanwhile, has bristled at the suggestion that Guus Hiddink was responsible for a turnaround and better style of football at Chelsea.
“To be honest that’s a load of crap in lots of respects,” he said. “The fact Jose Mourinho won the League by a country mile — to say someone’s come in and changed it and they’re playing better and doing everything else better.
“There might have been other reasons that things didn’t go so well this year. But to put Jose down is completely and utterly out of order.
“What you said was disrespectful to Mourinho and also the players that won the league last year because they played some great football last year, some fantastic football.”
Albion have not won at Chelsea in the League since 1978 and Pulis added: “We’re in for a tough game.
“It’s Chelsea. They’ve some wonderful players and we’ll have to be on it and at our best. That’s the same with every top four or five club.
“If you go away and play against them you have to have at least ten of your players playing to their maximum to get a result.”
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