The winger has been praised for his impact as the Blues chase Champions League qualification for next season
Ross Barkley believes Chelsea team-mate Christian Pulisic has benefited from the three-month break in play due to the coronavirus outbreak, as he used the time to get fit.
The 21-year-old US Men’s national team star has been in scintillating form since the restart for Chelsea after scoring twice and winning two penalties in his side’s first five matches since the return to action.
The Blues pair were heavily involved in the 3-0 win over Watford on Saturday night and Barkley has seen a different side to Pulisic after he got himself fit during the stoppage in play.
“Since he came back from lockdown he has been on fire,” Barkley told reporters at Stamford Bridge. “He had a couple of little niggles earlier in the season – and he didn’t have much of a break last summer before he joined us. So maybe this break has done him a world of good.
“Since he came back he has been blazing. He has been scoring great goals in training and now he has been doing it in matches.
“He is such a difficult player to defend against because he is so direct. He is also so confident. He is always ready to try and take a player on. He is a real problem for defenders.”
Chelsea had a blip in their recent run of form after losing 3-2 away at West Ham in midweek but they have generally found a good rhythm since coming back and have won four of their five games.
Barkley has enjoyed regular action himself having got a goal and an assist against Watford to make it three goals and five assists in his last 10 starts.
It is quite the turnaround for a player who had injury problems earlier in the season, while he made headlines for the wrong reasons due to his off-field conduct.
However, manager Frank Lampard has put the incidents behind him to lean heavily on the former Everton star and Barkley himself has admitted he has done wrong.
“We are all humans, we make mistakes and I am no exception. But it was not taking any attention away from my football for me. It never did. I am a professional and I always work hard,” he said before discussing his recent run of games under his former England team-mate and current manager.
“I’ve been feeling fit and I worked really hard during the lockdown to make sure I was ready. I feel that is paying off now because I feel really fit and really good. I just want to carry this on now. It is great that the goals are going in as well.
“You are always pleased when there is an end product to your play. We have been working on that in training and it is great when it pays off in matches. With the players we have like Mason [Mount] and Christian in the team, we are always going to get goals.”
Chelsea’s ambition this season centres around qualifying for next season’s Champions League and they will have to finish in the top four to do so.
The win at the weekend put them back into fourth, two points ahead of Manchester United and five ahead of Wolves. Meanwhile, Leicester are a point ahead of Chelsea in third as four teams battle for two spots.
“We were not at our best at West Ham,” he concluded about the run-in. “We needed to get back to winning ways. It was important that we performed tonight and we did. It was a good all-round performance, and we needed it.
“It was important because teams were gaining on us in the chase for Champions League places and we need to put some space in between them and us. We have got so much to play for now – with the FA Cup as well.”