Romelu Lukaku's fitness provides Thomas Tuchel with major Chelsea headache

By Sam Inkersole

Romelu Lukaku missed out for Belgium in their third place play-off defeat to Italy on Sunday as Roberto Martinez's failure to win a trophy with the country’s Golden Generation continued.

Having been defeated by Spain in the semi final on Thursday night, Belgium rested Kevin De Bruyne for the third place clash, which Italy won 2-1 thanks to goals from Nicolo Barrella and Domenico Berardi in the second half.

The Belgians were also without a former Chelsea star and a current one, in Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku, respectively.

Martinez explained prior to the game in Turin that both Hazard and Lukaku were unavailable for the match because of “overload” and muscle fatigue.

“He [Lukaku] didn't feel 100 per cent to play tomorrow. It's soreness in his tissue,” Martinez said.

“They're leaving the national team camp due to these problems. I don't know how long it will take for them to recover.”

Lukaku initially returned to Belgium but is expected to report back to Cobham later this week, with Martinez adding: “Obviously there is an excellent understanding between the two sets of medical staff and we want to do the best for the player.

“Every decision is also made in agreement with the club.'

Following the gruelling 2020/21 season and the subsequent hectic start to the current campaign that sees three international breaks before the end of the year, it’s no surprise that many top-level players are starting to feel the heat.

Last season, Lukaku played 70 games for club and country as Inter Milan secured the Serie A title to end Juventus’ nine-year period of dominance, while he also reached the EURO 2020 quarter-finals with Belgium.

This season, he has already played eight out of a possible nine games for Chelsea since his move to SW6 from the San Siro as well as three outings for his national side, scoring in their defeat to Italy last week.

Is the workload catching up with Lukaku? Perhaps it is but considering his importance to Chelsea, Thomas Tuchel can’t be taking any risks with his No.9.

The Blues are back in action on Saturday evening when they travel just up the A4 for a few miles to take on Brentford, who have started their first Premier League campaign in excellent style as they sit in seventh after seven games with three wins to their name.

Tuchel will be hoping that Lukaku’s injury is not serious enough to keep him out of the match this weekend but even if the Belgian was fit, is it time for Tuchel to give him a rest?

Of course, he has already had one in midweek owing to his muscle overload but with Timo Werner finding some confidence after an excellent game against Southampton last time out, it could present Tuchel with a chance to give Lukaku a bit more time off.

The likelihood is that if Lukaku is fit, then he will play. Tuchel said as much not long after signing the striker for £97.5million, proclaiming that Chelsea “didn’t sign him to sit on the bench.”

Lukaku’s importance to Chelsea is massive and he also ended a goal drought of sorts by netting against Italy after four matches without finding the net.

Unless his injury is serious enough to keep him out this weekend then it’s highly likely that the 28-year-old will be named in Tuchel’s starting XI at the Brentford Community Stadium.

But with a rather favourable run of games on the horizon after Chelsea’s tough start, it could also be an ideal time for Tuchel to give his star striker a bit of a break. But not too much.


What is inkl?

Important stories

See news based on value, not advertising potential. Get the latest news from around the world.

Trusted newsrooms

We bring you reliable news from the world’s most experienced journalists in the most trusted newsrooms.

Ad-free reading

Read without interruptions, distractions or intrusions of privacy.