Chelsea rediscovered some of their fluid attacking form by beating Lille 2-0 in the first leg of the Champions League round of 16 on Tuesday, but the conversation at Stamford Bridge was more about the striker who didn’t play than those who did. .
Record signing Romelu Lukaku sat on the bench as an unused substitute while fellow forwards Kai Havertz and Christian Pulisic netted the goals that put defending champions Chelsea in charge to progress to the quarter-finals. On Saturday, against Crystal Palace, Lukaku had the fewest touches on the ball – seven – ever recorded for a player on the pitch for at least 90 minutes in a Premier League game since such data began to be collected in full in 2003. -04 season.
This unwanted record has added to questions about the Belgian’s role in Thomas Tuchel’s squad which has often looked more dangerous this season when Lukaku has been out with injury or due to COVID-19. Lukaku scored 24 league goals and provided 11 assists for Inter Milan last season to help them clinch the Serie A title and he got off to a good start in his second spell at Stamford Bridge after moving to London in August.
He scored three goals in his first three Premier League games and bonded well with his fellow forwards. But he has only scored two more league goals since then and the comments he gave in a TV interview, in which he said Tuchel’s system did not suit him, only added to the problem. feeling that Lukaku is not the right candidate for Chelsea.
Tuchel told reporters after the win over Lille that he decided Lukaku needed a break after recently starting in a series of games. “Today the focus was on intensity, high-speed play and hard work off the ball,” said the German coach. “Romelu has struggled in recent games to achieve that.”
Lukaku scored two of Chelsea’s three goals in the Club World Cup tournament the Londoners won in Abu Dhabi earlier this month. But the threat posed by Havertz in Tuesday’s Lille defeat and his hard work rate hinted the German could edge the Belgian when Chelsea emerge from the Wembley tunnel on Sunday for the League Cup final against Liverpool.
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