‘Every chance’ Romelu Lukaku starts for Chelsea in Carabao Cup final, Thomas Tuchel insists

The £98million club-record striker remained an unused replacement as Chelsea beat Lille on Tuesday night

Nick Purewal
Wednesday 23 February 2022 11:37 GMT
(AFP via Getty Images)

Thomas Tuchel has insisted Romelu Lukaku has “every chance” of starting Sunday’s Carabao Cup final despite not featuring in Tuesday’s 2-0 Champions League win over Lille.

The £98million club-record striker remained an unused replacement as Chelsea put one foot into the quarter-finals with victory in their last-16 first-leg win at Stamford Bridge.

Kai Havertz and Christian Pulisic struck fine goals amid energetic forward-line performances that could point the way to take on Jurgen Klopp’s Reds at Wembley this weekend.

But Blues boss Tuchel was quick to explain Lukaku’s omission against Lille was solely a plan for that encounter in isolation.

“Every game is different. The focus for this game was on intensity and a high-speed game,” said Tuchel. “We needed hard work against the ball and intensive teamwork and Romelu struggled in the last games a little bit to deliver that.

“That’s what I mean when I said I felt him a bit tired, mentally and physically. He has started every match since the Liverpool game, and had extra time as well. It is like this, and against Lille we went for three other players.

“Kai is in very good shape and he delivered high-intensive metres for the team. We have four days to decide and recover and – of course – there’s every chance for Romelu to play.”

Lukaku set a Premier League record-low seven touches in Saturday’s 1-0 win at Crystal Palace, with the 28-year-old still scrabbling to find his Stamford Bridge niche.

Havertz has cantered into form in recent weeks in contrast and will be pushing to start Sunday’s League Cup final in the false nine role.

N’Golo Kante laid on Chelsea’s second goal for Pulisic with a driving run and a perfectly-timed slide-rule pass.

Chelsea will need Kante at his game-breaking best for Sunday’s showdown with Liverpool, especially if Mateo Kovacic cannot find fitness in time for the Wembley encounter.

Kovacic hobbled out of the clash with an apparent left leg problem, while Hakim Ziyech also limped off the field wearing a pained expression.

Tuchel hopes to receive good news on both men in the next couple of days, but Chelsea have been left to sweat on their availability for the weekend.

France’s World Cup-winning midfielder Kante hit back to his best after his recent injury niggles against Lille however, leaving Tuchel delighted but not surprised.

“In the last few weeks he had some problems to find his strength and rhythm after his injury,” said Tuchel. “But he was back on top level against Lille and he got better every minute throughout the game.

“As soon as that happens, instantly he has a huge impact. But this is not a surprise because we know about his huge qualities.

“He found his rhythm, delivered a huge impact and it was an absolutely top performance.”

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