Romelu Lukaku is not thinking about leaving Chelsea this summer and is focused on winning back his place for Sunday’s Carabao Cup final against Liverpool.
The striker has struggled since his £97.5m move from Internazionale and there is fresh doubt over his place in Thomas Tuchel’s plans after he was dropped against Lille in the Champions League on Tuesday. Chelsea’s attack was more mobile with Kai Havertz leading the line during the 2-0 victory and Lukaku, an unused substitute, could find himself on the bench again.
That has led to suggestions in Italy that Lukaku is planning to press for a return there at the end of the season. The Belgian has not looked settled in Tuchel’s system and was dropped and fined after giving an unsanctioned interview to Sky Italia in December.
However Tuchel’s team selection against Lille has not caused Lukaku to make any decisions over his future. The 28-year-old remains determined to make a success of his second spell at Chelsea, who are tracking Barcelona’s Ousmane Dembélé, and hopes to convince Tuchel to start him at Wembley.
It remains to be seen whether Lukaku can do enough in training to regain his place. He had only seven touches when Chelsea beat Crystal Palace last weekend and has scored only 10 goals this season.
Tuchel said he wanted to protect Lukaku after his performance against Palace. The manager explained his decision to drop him by saying that the player was mentally and physically tired. However it is understood Lukaku did not feel tired and considered himself ready to start against Lille.
Tuchel picked Havertz, who will be confident of keeping his place after scoring the opener against Lille. The 22-year-old gave Chelsea more fluidity in attack and there was also a fine performance from Christian Pulisic. The American winger scored Chelsea’s second goal and will be hopeful of starting again against Liverpool.
There is no shortage of choices for Tuchel, who brought on Timo Werner against Lille. Hakim Ziyech is a doubt with an ankle injury but Mason Mount has returned from ankle ligament damage and Callum Hudson-Odoi is close to recovering from an achilles problem.
Chelsea, who have concerns over Mateo Kovacic’s fitness after the midfielder limped off against Lille, are monitoring developments regarding Dembélé. The France forward played for Tuchel at Borussia Dortmund and is poised to leave Barcelona on a free at the end of the season.
Dembélé has struggled with form and injuries since joining Barcelona in 2017though there is nothing advanced with Chelsea, who face competition for the 24-year-old from Paris Saint-Germain.
Barcelona remain confident of signing César Azpilicueta this summer. However they could be forced to pay a small fee because Chelsea have an option to extend the defenders’s deal, which is due to expire at the end of the season.
Chelsea did something similar with Olivier Giroud last summer, triggering a one-year extension in the French striker’s contract before selling him to Milan for £1.7m a month later.