Ross Barkley has targeted a run in Chelsea’s first team this coming season after returning to training early to ‘give himself a head start’.

The England international failed to make a single appearance for Everton in the first half of 2017-18 due to injury, before playing just twice for the Blues following a £15m move in January.

After a season to forget last time out, though, Barkley has already started twice under Maurizio Sarri during Chelsea’s pre-season campaign, and he is now looking to prove himself when the real stuff gets underway.

“I arrived here with a long-term injury,” The Telegraph quotes him as saying. “I didn’t play many games because of that and a few niggles, little grade ones [muscle tears] from recovering and getting used to working hard. But I didn’t see it as a waste of time because, from the time that I joined in January, I have got my body feeling better than ever before.

“I have done everything I could perfectly. I felt strong towards the end of the season and then, in the off-season, worked hard with the strength and conditioning coach.

“I got myself really fit just to give myself a head start. I am really prepared and I feel at home with the team now.

“There will be freedom because you have three men in the midfield. You can go forward, get close to the box, have shots, try to create but obviously we have to be disciplined and organised without the ball.

“I want to be scoring goals, creating goals and, towards the end of the season, there will hopefully be a prize, with a trophy or a couple of trophies. One step at a time, but I’m hoping to start the season really strong.”

Barkley featured for a combined 131 minutes in the top flight last season, compared to 2,905 in 2016-17 and 3,085 the year before.

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