EPL

Lukaku under no pressure to rush back, insists Tuchel

By Sports Desk November 19, 2021

Thomas Tuchel is not putting any pressure on Romelu Lukaku as the Chelsea striker continues his recovery from injury.

Lukaku has been absent since sustaining an ankle problem in Chelsea's 4-0 win over Malmo in the Champions League on October 20.

The 28-year-old has subsequently missed five Chelsea games, along with Belgium's World Cup qualifiers against Estonia and Wales.

Chelsea have also been without Lukaku's fellow forward Timo Werner, who suffered a thigh injury in the same game.

Tuchel's team managed three victories without their strikers, though they needed a penalty shoot-out to get past Southampton in the EFL Cup before being held to a 1-1 home draw by Burnley before the international break.

Leicester City, who beat Chelsea in the FA Cup final last season, are next up in Saturday's early Premier League kick-off, but Tuchel will again be without Lukaku.

"Mateo [Kovacic] and Romelu are still out. Romelu is very close to team training, hopefully he will join the squad on Sunday," Tuchel said on Friday.

"Let's see how this works out. He is pushing hard to come back as soon as possible."

Before his injury, Lukaku had not been at his best in terms of goalscoring, having not netted for the Blues across all competitions since September 14.

Lukaku's return would be timely for Saturday's trip to the King Power Stadium, given he has scored five goals in eight Premier League appearances against teams managed by Brendan Rodgers (all against Liverpool, including the last goal scored against the Northern Irishman's Reds side in October 2015 for Everton).

No player has netted more Premier League goals against teams managed by Rodgers (Harry Kane also on five), but Tuchel insisted he is not going to rush Lukaku back.

Asked if Lukaku could be fit to feature against Juventus on Tuesday, or his former club Manchester United in Chelsea's following league game on October 28, Tuchel said: "It's pure speculation and it will not help. All I can say is that we will try hard that he will join team training on Sunday.

"If everything works out perfectly and he trains on Sunday and Monday then okay he can maybe join the group on the bench, but there are a lot of ifs and I don't want to put pressure on him.

"He's putting a lot of pressure on himself and we will not rush things. We will take things seriously as always, have talks with doctors and physios and with the player.

"If there is something to be decided then that's good, and it will be decided on Monday evening."

Tuchel did have a more positive update to offer on Werner, however, while Mason Mount could be in contention and Christian Pulisic is fit to feature.

"Timo's in team training since Thursday, let's see, we have another training session today, let's see if he is even in the squad or on the bench," Tuchel added.

"We can only decide after his second session. Christian Pulisic feels fine. Thiago Silva will train, he did not play [for Brazil] but he has some trouble in his body and some time differences. Mason [Mount] is back in training, looking hungry, fresh in a good spirit, but we need to evaluate. He looks good, but we need to see if he can start or play 90 minutes."

Chelsea may well need the Germany forward. While they have only lost three of their last 18 Premier League matches against the Foxes, albeit the most recent of those defeats came in the corresponding fixture last season, in what proved to be Frank Lampard's last top-flight game in charge, Leicester are unbeaten in their last three home league matches against the Blues.

In all competitions, Leicester have won two matches against Chelsea in 2021, winning in the Premier League in January and the FA Cup final in May. In the last 10 years, only Man United have beaten them three times in a single calendar year.

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