Chelsea need to keep Lukaku healthy if they are to beat Man City and Liverpool in the title race

Thomas Tuchel has proven he can win the Champions League without a formidable striker, but repeating the trick in the Premier League seems like an overall tougher task. Here, the German hopes, Romelu Lukaku comes into play.

To keep their title hopes alive, Chelsea must keep Lukaku healthy. His aim was pure class, but his mere presence was enough to unsettle the Aston Villa defense. Not bad for a player who has only recently recovered from Covid-19.

After seeing Manchester City take a six point lead in the Premier League by scoring six goals behind Leicester on Boxing Day, Chelsea struggled in the first half to show the offensive sharpness they will surely need to beat Pep Guardiolas Overtaking team. Then Lukaku took over.

Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku shot in front of Tyrone Mings and headed the second goal home

Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku shot in front of Tyrone Mings and headed the second goal home

Ten minutes after replacing Trevoh Chalobah for the second 45 minutes, Lukaku revealed why Chelsea paid Inter Milan £ 97.5million last summer to bring him back to Stamford Bridge. As Callum Hudson-Odoi picked up the ball on the left and weighed his options, Lukaku took two steps away from his marker Tyrone Mings before whizzing in front of him as he dropped the ball. The header was as impressive as the move and Chelsea led.

But even before Lukaku’s goal, his presence had changed the tone of the game. Prior to his arrival, Villa’s center-backs Mings and Ezri Konsa and goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez had no problems in the air as Christian Pulisic posed little physical threat at 5’10 ”.

Within seconds of Lukaku’s appearance, he was forcing Martinez into a hasty blow. Then he collided with Mings, who were fighting for another flank. Shortly after the goal, Lukaku got Mings to pull him to the edge of the box after overtaking him.

Lukaku's mere presence was enough to unsettle the Aston Villa defenses

Lukaku’s mere presence was enough to unsettle the Aston Villa defenses

Before the break, Villa’s key figures looked so confident they looked nervous, and Mason Mount should have dragged Chelsea out of sight in the 66th minute when Martinez stormed unnecessarily off his line. With the guests chasing the decisive third place, Lukaku’s clever exit led to near misses for Mount and Marcos Alonso, before he and Mateo Kovacic created a chance for Hudson-Odoi that should have been used.

Then a heavy run from the depths brought a hasty challenge from Konsa and Jorginho took his second penalty of the game.

Still on top form, Lukaku was not called into action by Tuchel until the beginning of the second half after an opening period when Chelsea had worked hard. This was followed by a similarly sterile attack performance in the blues goalless draw with the Wolves on December 19.

Thomas Tuchel knows Chelsea will have to keep Lukaku healthy to face a title challenge

Thomas Tuchel knows Chelsea will have to keep Lukaku healthy to face a title challenge

Lukaku’s move should give Chelsea the firepower to beat City and Liverpool in the title race.

A mixture of injury – Lukaku hurt an ankle in October – and illness meant the 28-year-old hasn’t started a league game since October 16 and without his intervention here would have been eight points behind City Chelsea. He only played eight of his 19 league games in the first half of the season and that ratio must be much higher by the end of the season.

Because Lukaku has made a career with fearsome central defenders who have proven themselves at the highest level. If he can continue to do this, the title may not be out of reach yet.

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