Chelsea's Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Mason Mount: Stick or move for England chance?
What's a Chelsea youngster to do when they have ambitions of getting into the England team?
Stick it out and fight for a place at Stamford Bridge or head out on loan for guaranteed playing time?
In Wednesday's Carabao Cup tie between Chelsea and Derby, England World Cup player Ruben Loftus-Cheek came up against another Blues-owned midfielder in Mason Mount.
Mount managed an assist and impressed despite Derby losing 3-2, while Loftus-Cheek showed his ability with a few driving runs from midfield in only his fourth start of the season.
He was then substituted after 69 minutes while Mount, completing his 17th full match this season, came close to scoring in the later stages.
Loftus-Cheek impressed so much during a loan spell at Crystal Palace last season that he earned a place in the England squad - and featured at the World Cup. But his career has stalled again after the Blues refused to let him leave on loan again, while still rarely playing him.
An injury to the Chelsea man at the time of the last international break opened the door for Mount, who was named in the England squad for games against Croatia and Spain this month, although he did not get on the pitch in either match.
So has Mount moved above Loftus-Cheek in the England pecking order now, and does the latter need to go back on loan somewhere to press his case?
In 2017-18 Loftus-Cheek, 22, played more first-team minutes for Crystal Palace in one season than he has done in the whole of the rest of his Chelsea career. He played 25 times for Palace - it would have been more but for three injuries - scoring twice and setting up another five goals.
A hat-trick against BATE Borisov in last Thursday's Europa League win more than doubled his previous goal tally at Chelsea, and he added another goal in the 4-0 Premier League win at Burnley at the weekend, meaning he has now scored six and set up five for the Blues in 38 appearances.
Palace were reportedly keen to re-sign him on loan this season, but the Blues held on to him, leaving him to compete with Mateo Kovacic (signed on loan from Real Madrid), Ross Barkley, N'Golo Kante and Jorginho for a place in midfield.
|Chelsea midfielders Premier League 2018-19|
|Player||Minutes||Goals||Shooting accuracy||Assists||Chances created||Passing accuracy|
Mount - three years Loftus-Cheek's junior - has already played more football than his potential club and country rival in his career.
He made 39 appearances for Dutch top-flight side Vitesse Arnhem last season, scoring 13 goals - including five in his last three matches - and setting up another 10. He has followed that up with another productive loan spell at Derby County, scoring five times and providing two assists.
What they said
Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri
On Loftus-Cheek: "At the beginning of the season [Loftus-Cheek] was a very good player and now he is a good player that is more suited to my style of football.
"We have a tactical problem with the midfielders. We have four midfielders and three of them have the same characteristics. They are offensive midfielders. Only one has other characteristics - Kante is a defensive midfielder. So it is very difficult to put in the starting XI two midfielders with the same characteristics."
Derby boss Frank Lampard
On Mount: "He can be really good. He can be top, top level because he's 19 and plays with ability and quality. Technically he's brilliant but also his work-rate shouldn't go unnoticed.
"He's so quick to leave midfield to go and press people, whether it be defenders or deep-lying midfield players which makes you the all-round midfield player.
"He should never be considered a number 10 because there's so much more to his game but he'll score goals like a number 10.
"At some stage he will go back to Chelsea. I don't want to think about that now, but when he does I think he's going to be a contender."
England manager Gareth Southgate
On Loftus-Cheek: "Ruben is a very good ball player. Everybody can see his physical size but he has got lovely soft feet. He receives the ball really well when surrounded in tight areas - he is obviously strong enough to hold people off.
"He has got great acceleration with the ball, driving with the ball at opposing players, and he is a good passer, has good vision."
On Mount: "Mason stepped up and scored a penalty at Old Trafford [in Derby's Carabao Cup win over Manchester United]. He took it like he had been there all his life. Very often we hold youngsters back a bit too much and I'm always trying to find that balance.
"The message has got to be correct as it's the very early stages of their career, but it is good for their development to train and be part of the squad."
"It's hard sometimes to perform at your best when you are not playing regularly.
"[Sarri] is asking me to improve defensively and positionally. For a manager who has been in the game for a long time, it would be daft for me not to take in what he is telling me. He is a top manager. For me to learn from him is great for my development. I will keep on doing that."
"At first [Lampard] said he was thinking of looking to drop me for the next game, and maybe give me a rest.
"But then he smiled and said 'no I've just spoken to Gareth, you've been selected for the England seniors'. He's got over 100 caps so he said to see if I can break that."