Thomas Tuchel insists he is in no rush to bring back Romelu Lukaku against Juventus and says striker will return when ‘he is ready’… but Max Allegri claims Blues are more dangerous without Belgian
- Romelu Lukaku hasn’t played since injuring ankle against Malmo last month
- Thomas Tuchel said Belgian will start on the bench against Juventus
- Lukaku returned to full training this week but Tuchel doesn’t want to risk him
- Draw against Juventus would be enough for Chelsea to win Group H
One month without Romelu Lukaku has failed to diminish Chelsea’s goal power or damage their serene progress.
Eighteen goals in six-and-a-half games since Lukaku and Timo Werner were both injured against Malmo has merely served to emphasise Thomas Tuchel’s embarrassment of attacking riches.
It also helps explain why the club’s record signing will not be rushed back to face Juventus in the Champions League, two days after returning to full training.
Thomas Tuchel has insisted he will not rush Romelu Lukaku back from his injury
Tuchel said he plans to start with Lukaku on the bench tonight as long as his ankle suffers no adverse reaction in training.
The £97.5million Belgian might be able to come on towards the end of the game, if necessary.
‘That would be the maximum we could get out of the situation right now,’ said the Blues boss.
Lukaku is another handy option to have for a match that the European champions must win if they are to win Group H and be seeded for the last-16 draw, playing the second leg at home.
Lukaku hasn’t played since suffering an ankle injury against Malmo last month
Kai Havertz is a doubt with tight hamstrings but speed merchants Werner and Christian Pulisic are back from injuries.
‘It’s on the players when they are needed and have the chance to show their potential,’ added Tuchel. ‘They have to show it. They need to be ready. That’s life at Chelsea. This is what they do in a very impressive way.
‘When we have Romelu, we play with Romelu. When we have Timo, we play with Timo. When they’re unavailable, we try and find solutions. That’s why we are here. We have a big squad and we trust everybody.’
Lukaku scored 64 goals in 95 appearances for Inter Milan but his record of one goal in seven against Juventus became the subject of scrutiny in Italy after the Blues lost 1-0 in Turin in September.
The Belgian had failed to score in five games in all competitions before his injury
Chelsea’s No 9 returned to full training this week and is working back to fitness again
Tottenham boss Antonio Conte, Lukaku’s manager at Inter and then working as a TV pundit, said Chelsea had yet to figure out the best way to use him.
Perhaps there would be more temptation to rush him back if he had a psychological hold over the Old Lady.
Juve boss Max Allegri hinted that Chelsea might be harder to stop in his absence.
‘Lukaku is a reference point,’ he said. ‘They gain speed without him, defend differently and do more counter-attacks.’
But Tuchel maintained the Belgian will only play once he shows himself to be ready
Or if there was more jeopardy in Group H. Juventus, eighth in Serie A, have been faultless in Europe and are into the last 16.
One point at the Bridge would be enough to win the group.
Tuchel would prefer to finish top but a draw tonight guarantees progress with a game to spare as runners-up, and a chance to give some of his players a break from the hectic schedule against Zenit St Petersburg next month.
Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri said Chelsea could be harder to stop without Lukaku
Besides, with the way the competition has unfolded this season, winning the group could easily throw up a tie against Paris Saint-Germain, Atletico Madrid, Inter or Barcelona.
‘We try to win, this will not change,’ said Tuchel. ‘Late in the game, if it is a draw we will maybe not allow (goalkeeper) Edou Mendy to leave his box if we have a corner because we will not risk our qualification.
‘But until this moment we will try everything to win the game.’