Ruben Loftus-Cheek has credited Crystal Palace with his impressive development, as he believes his loan spell at Selhurst Park last season 'matured' him into a better player.
The 22-year-old spent the last campaign with the Eagles under Roy Hodgson but is now developing into an integral member of Maurizio Sarri’s Blues squad.
“After a season at Palace I felt I really matured, I got to see what the Premier League was like playing week-in, week out,” Loftus-Cheek said.
“At Palace we had to fight a lot. I really think I learned the way to fight and grind out games."
The midfielder excelled in 24 games for Palace last term and subsequently earned a call-up to the England World Cup squad in Russia under Gareth Southgate - featuring four times.
“After the World Cup I was ready to come back and fight for a place at Chelsea," he said to Chelsea TV (as quoted in the Independent.)
“The start of the season was difficult but I’m getting chances now and I’m just looking to do the best I can.”
Loftus-Cheek has now featured for the Blues 14 times in all competitions with an impressive tally of six goals from midfield.
The English international played 90 minutes in a more advanced role in Chelsea’s 1-0 Carabao Cup quarter-final win over Bournemouth on Wednesday night and appeared to thrive, before being forced into his more customary midfield position upon the introductions of Pedro and Eden Hazard.
That versatility didn't go unnoticed by the Chelsea staff, with assistant boss Gianfranco Zola saying: “I was impressed with him. He’s done very well as one of the strikers, wide players, but also he showed a lot of application and sacrifice when he played as a midfielder.
“He’s gone a long way since the beginning of the season and improved in many ways. He’s a good boy and works very hard on his game," added the Italian.
Despite the impressive performance in the unfamiliar role, Loftus-Cheek’s preference is to play in midfield.
He added: “I see myself as a midfielder. That’s where I want to be as I take my career forward. Right now I’m happy to play anywhere, right wing, left wing. I covered a lot of positions (against Bournemouth).
“I’m happy to do it wherever. And I’ll give it my best. I think I’m effective if it’s coming from deep or getting it higher up and making combinations and getting shots off," said the Chelsea academy graduate.
Chelsea will play Tottenham in next month’s semi-final of the Carabao Cup after a busy festive fixture frenzy where the Blues play seven games in just 23 days.