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The Chelsea decision more crucial than whether to start Romelu Lukaku vs Liverpool at Wembley

Talk of Romelu Lukaku dominated both before and after Chelsea’s win against Lille.

Despite a solid 2-0 victory for the Blues, the success of Kai Havertz leading the line only led to more questions surrounding the Belgian’s place in the team for Thomas Tuchel. The German coach’s plan was to take him out of the firing line, and Tuchel noted that Lukaku has ‘every chance to play’.

He added: “Yes also [that], It was not the moment after the match where everybody was focused on the few touches that he had to put him right into the next fire. It was the moment to take a step back. That was the decision and that’s it.

“You can clearly see we have a strong win and strong performance. It was a tough match and almost every question is about Romelu. The focus is huge. There were nine other players who did not play.”

Goals from Havertz and Christian Pulisic served to rejuvenate their form after they also had poor afternoons at Selhurst Park. There will be a clamour to see them utilised in similar roles once again, which would leave Lukaku with a place on the bench.

The 28-year-old’s two goals at the Club World Cup do not appear to have earned him much grace in some areas after a limited display against the Eagles, but he has shown the ability score in big games, while Havertz also has that down to a tee.

What might be giving Tuchel pause for thought however, is who to match against Mohamed Salah.

Marcos Alonso had that duty with the help of Antonio Rudiger beside him in Chelsea’s two league outings to mixed success. In each game he had success going forwards but could be seen as partly responsible for the goals Chelsea conceded.

In the first game in against Jurgen Klopp’s side, the Spaniard jumped alongside Edouard Mendy in an attempt to clear from a Liverpool corner and the chaos ensued resulted in Reece James’ handball. At Stamford Bridge in January, he was left wanting by Salah, though Rudiger should have been providing more assistance.

In addition, Alonso has not been able to recreate his early season form since Ben Chilwell’s injury. His form could certainly be seen as partly responsible for Tuchel straying away from his favoured 3-4-3 formation which has seen Malang Sarr earn minutes at left-back.

The Frenchman’s form has seen him more than prove his value to the Chelsea boss, beyond the expectations anyone had in the early stages of the season.

The former Porto loanee played in the position as a teenager, and has slotted into the role in two fixtures against Spurs, as well as against Plymouth in the FA Cup and Crystal Palace.

However, in the one-off matches of the Club World Cup, and Tuesday’s Champions League last 16 knockout round first leg, Tuchel couldn’t help but revert to his three central defenders.

Against Palmeiras, a third player came into the equation in Callum Hudson-Odoi. As Chelsea enter another final, you wonder if Tuchel would have liked to do the same again.

However, the Cobham product has not featured since that match in Abu Dhabi, suffering from Achilles pain that has prevented him from training.

It remains to be seen whether the 20-year-old can return to training in time for Wembley, and Tuchel will have plenty to mull over, like many others before him, in his attempts to limit Salah, while Chelsea offer enough going forwards too.

 

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