Romelu Lukaku: Thomas Tuchel says ‘not time to laugh’ after Chelsea striker’s seven touches against Crystal Palace | Soccer News

Thomas Tuchel says it is “not the time to laugh” about Romelu Lukaku after the Chelsea striker only managed seven touches against Crystal Palace.

Lukaku set a new Premier League record for the fewest touches from a player who has played a full 90 minutes since statistics started being recorded by Opta in the 2003/04 season.

The Belgium international only managed seven touches in the 1-0 victory at Crystal Palace on Saturday – and one of those was from kick-off.

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Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel says Lukaku is still very much part of his plans at the club despite the striker registering just seven touches against Crystal Palace

Asked how he can get Lukaku to touch the ball more often, Tuchel said: “What can I do? I don’t know. We have to deal with it.

“The data is out there and the data speaks a certain language. He was not involved in our game, it’s sometimes like this with strikers, if they struggled a bit with self-confidence, to find the space and to get involved against a good defensive side, it can be like this.

“It’s not what we want or Romelu wants but it’s also not the time to laugh about him and make jokes about him. He’s in the spotlight but we will protect him.”

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Chelsea’s win against Crystal Palace in the Premier League

‘Chelsea have history of struggling strikers’

Lukaku has scored five goals in 17 Premier League appearances this season since his £97.5m move from Inter Milan last summer.

Tuchel, who is preparing Chelsea for Tuesday’s visit of Lille in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie, highlighted the 28-year-old is not the first striker to struggle at Stamford Bridge and suggested the reason for that could be the system he plays in.

Chelsea’s struggling strikers – Premier League

Andriy Shevchenko (2006-09) – nine goals in 48 appearances

Fernando Torres (2011-15) – 20 goals in 110 appearances

Radamel Falcao (2015-16) – one goal in 10 appearances

Alvaro Morata (2017-20) – 16 goals in 47 appearances

Gonzalo Higuain (2019) – five goals in 14 appearances

“Maybe, maybe,” Tuchel said. “There is a history of strikers struggling a little bit at Chelsea so it may not be the easiest place in the world for strikers. I don’t know why it’s like this.

“In my opinion, Chelsea are a team considered a strong defensive team, a physical team, that has a certain attitude when in competitive football.

“We demand a lot of our strikers in terms of defending. We want to be a physical, hard-working group that wants to play a physical game and as a skilful game. That maybe plays a part.

“We are on the subject and are well aware, but like always in football it’s not just one reason to sort a problem. It’s a complex sport and we will try to continue to play with faith, with a team effort.”

Sunday 27th February 4:00pm

Kickoff 4:30pm

Champions League: Holders Chelsea host Lille

Chelsea host Lille on Tuesday with Tuchel determined to see the Blues forge on in the defense of their Champions League crown.

The clubs have met in just one European campaign previously – in 2019-20 – when Chelsea won both matches in the group stage by the same 2-1 scoreline.

Lille are the reigning Ligue 1 champions but have struggled this season after a summer of changes, which included the departure of head coach Christophe Galtier.

“They had a fantastic coach and a group of players [last season]. They were very competitive when I was in Paris,” Tuchel said.

“They were a strong group, very emotional group, never easy to play in their stadium. The quality of the coach was exceptional and you could tell they had the quality to fight high up the table.

“But they lost players and the coach in the summer so there has been a huge change. When the change is so big it may take time for things to settle in.

Chelsea team news

Cesar Azpilicueta could return after a groin issue when Chelsea host Lille in Tuesday’s Champions League last-16 first-leg clash.

Winger Callum Hudson-Odoi should miss out again due to an Achilles injury, while midfielder Mason Mount could make the bench.

Mount has been struggling with an ankle ligament concern, but has made good progress and is inching towards being fully fit for Sunday’s Carabao Cup final.

Provisional Chelsea squad: Mendy, Arrizabalaga, Rudiger, Christensen, Silva, Chalobah, Sarr, Azpilicueta, Alonso, Kenedy, Jorginho, Kante, Kovacic, Saul, Loftus-Cheek, Barkley, Mount, Pulisic, Ziyech, Werner, Havertz, Lukaku.

“They lost another key player in winter with Jonathan ICO but still we all know how physical French football is, how physical the attacking players are, how brave they are in one-on-ones, very disciplined against the ball, and they have the chance to play this game as underdogs.

“It’s like always: we respect the game, respect the opponent, and prepare the team as we always do.”

Can low-scoring Lille shock holders? Opta stats…

  • Chelsea are the first current champions of the UEFA Champions League to progress to the knockout stages not as group winners since Real Madrid in 2017-18, who did eventually go on to retain their title. The last current holders of the competition to be eliminated at the Last 16 stage were Liverpool in 2019-20 (v Atletico Madrid).
  • Chelsea have only lost one of their previous 10 home European matches against sides from France (W6 D3), a 1-2 defeat to PSG in March 2016 which knocked the Blues out of the UEFA Champions League.
  • Lille (7) come into this round as the lowest scoring group winners since both Leicester City and Atletico Madrid in 2016-17 (also 7 each). Jonathan David has been responsible for three of those seven strikes, netting exactly once in his last three appearances in the UEFA Champions League; on the day of this game, David will be aged 22 years and 39 days, and should he score, Lionel Messi (21y 155d in November 2008) will be the only non-European player to score in four straight matches in the competition at a younger age than the Canadian.
  • Since his first campaign in the competition in 2017-18, Timo Werner (14) has scored more UEFA Champions League goals than any other German player, despite not appearing in the competition in 2018-19. However, 10 of his 14 goals have come in away matches (71.4%), with only Olivier Giroud (78% – 14/18) seeing a higher portion of his goals coming on the road in the competition’s history (min. 10 goals) .
  • Including finals, Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel has progressed/won 73% UEFA Champions League knockout ties (8/11), with only three other managers boasting a higher such rate among those to have overseen at least 10 knockout ties within the competition – Vicente del Bosque (80% – 8/10), Josef Heynckes (86% – 12/14) and Zinedine Zidane (88% – 14/16).

Lille factfile

French champions Lille will head for west London hoping history does not repeat itself. The sides last met in the group stage of the competition during the 2019-20 campaign with the English club winning 2-1 home and away.

Jocelyn Gourvennec’s side – the former midfielder replaced title-winning boss Christophe Galtier last summer – have made it to the knockout stage for just the second time and the first since 2006-07, when they lost 2-0 on aggregate to Manchester United.

They currently lie in 11th place in Ligue 1, 23 points adrift of leaders Paris St Germain, but emerged from Group G as winners on the back of three successive victories having taken only two points from their first three fixtures.

They include former Southampton and West Ham defender Jose Fonte and the much-travelled Hatem Ben Arfa, who joined the club as a free agent in January, among their ranks.

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