Following an interview that saw him criticise Thomas Tuchel’s tactics and express a desire to return to Inter Milan, Romelu Lukaku may be left out vs. Liverpool today.
Though Lukaku spoke to Sky Italia weeks previous, the release of his conversation with the outlet days before Chelsea host their title rivals was bizarre.
While quotes were initially taken out of context, claiming he was “not happy” at Stamford Bridge, the transcript is far from ideal for the Blues.
The Belgian reflected on how “the coach has chosen to play with another system,” explaining that he was “not happy with the situation” and later admitting he hoped to play for Inter again “at a still good level” in his career.
In his pre-match press conference, Tuchel said Lukaku’s comments were “not helpful,” and revealed he would hold talks with the striker to discuss the situation.
And while Tuchel insisted “it’s not necessary for the dressing room to always be in harmony to be successful,” widespread reports on Saturday night suggest otherwise.
Among those to report were the Guardian‘s Sachin Nakrani and Jacob Steinberg, who claim that Lukaku may be dropped from the side to play Liverpool.
Tuchel is described as “livid” with his No. 9, with the club “caught unawares” by the interview, and it is even suggested the player could be omitted from the matchday squad entirely.
“The club are likely to back Tuchel if he punishes Lukaku,” the report explains, “though the manager could settle on fining the forward rather than in effect giving him a one-game ban.”
However, The Athletic‘s David Ornstein has backed up reports that the 28-year-old will, in fact, be left out.
It would be a major decision from the German if he were to omit Lukaku on disciplinary grounds, particularly given Timo Werner has only just returned to training following a bout of COVID-19.
Kai Havertz was also laid off until recently after a positive test, while Christian Pulisic struggled as an interim striker during a period without other senior options.
The most likely course of action, were Lukaku to sit out, would be Havertz starting up front, but the 22-year-old has largely flattered to deceive so far at Chelsea.