Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku is a doubt for the weekend’s Premier League clash against Aston Villa after it was revealed that he picked up an injury during the current international break.
Lukaku, 28, scored his 67th Red Devils’ goal in his 100th cap on Sunday against the Czech Republic but an innocuous injury has left Blues fans fearing for the condition of their new club-record signing.
“I’ll have a scan of my thigh first,” Lukaku told HLN on Sunday afternoon.
“I have been struggling with a minor issue for a while. And then I will return to Chelsea.”
This update is a concern to manager Thomas Tuchel as he is already heavily relying on the clinical nature of his new No. 9 to spearhead a potential Premier League title challenge this season.
“I certainly think that nobody likes to play against him. Everybody is aware of his physicality but there is also his link-up play,” Tuchel told the media after the 2-0 win over Arsenal.
“His profile is something we didn’t have but he has some depth in his game and we can overcome pressing with long balls.
“We can play into him when he has defenders on his back and we still don’t lose our strength in counter-attack because he can run into open spaces.
“He is very smart, friendly and open so it was easy for him to connect with everybody. We need to work on the details and keep going. It’s day one for him and we need to keep going.”
With the current uncertainty as to whether or not the former Manchester United man will be fit for the weekend, football.london has looked at the alternative line-up options that the German may be forced to turn to come September 11.
The first formation involves Kai Havertz playing in a false 9 position as a consequence of Lukaku potentially missing out.
It wouldn’t be a surprise at all to see Tuchel use this option, especially considering how well this modified front three have performed in the past. The Champions League final win against Manchester City demonstrated just how well these three attackers could perform without an attacking focal point.
The former Bayer Leverkusen man scored the all-important winner, illustrating his ability to play up top if needed for a couple of games.
However, it’s not guaranteed yet that the 22-year-old will be available to Tuchel, as he has been struck down with ‘flu-like symptoms’ during this current international break.
Talking in a press conference, Germany boss Hansi Flick said: “Kai Havertz has a mild flu-like infection, but it’s not that bad. We still have to see if he can train with us today.”
Option 1 line-up (3-4-3)- Mendy; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Rudiger; James, Jorginho, Kante, Alonso; Mount, Werner, Havertz.
Chelsea may have to go without the duo of Havertz and Lukaku, meaning two players could be handed an opportunity to make a real statement to Tuchel.
The first is the in form Timo Werner who has scored two goals so far during the international break.
Werner himself hasn’t started a game for the west London club since the opening weekend victory over Patrick Vieira’s Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge.
With the £98million arrival of the 28-year-old, the ex-RB Leipzig man has had to be patient and bide his time but concerns over Lukaku’s fitness could offer a much-needed opportunity for Werner to force his way back into the manager’s plans.
The second of the players that could be given another chance to start is Hakim Ziyech, who has been training hard with the squad over the international break due to a bitter fallout with national manager Vahid Halilhodzic.
In this formation, the Moroccan would feature in a regular position wide on the right, while Werner would spearhead the attack, just like he did against Palace.
Option 2 line-up (3-4-3)- Mendy; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Rudiger; James, Jorginho, Kante, Alonso; Mount, Ziyech, Werner.
The last option – which would be the most surprising – would see new signing Saul Niguez play further up the field in a more attacking role.
Saul himself has played in a number of positions for Atletico Madrid including left-back, midfield, attacking midfield, and occasionally, in the front three.
But the 26-year-old’s 74 goal contributions throughout his career illustrates the attacking potential the loanee has and as a result of this coupled with his and the fans desire to see him debut against Aston Villa, Tuchel could shoehorn him into playing in the front three behind someone like Werner or Havertz.
And this idea isn’t out of the realms of possibility, with Alvaro Montero detailing the versatile nature of the Spaniard.
He said on Sky Sports: “He’s a typical number 10, number 8, he can play in the very last part of the area (up the pitch).
“He has a fabulous left foot and he’s scored many goals. With his dribbling, you can see the Atletico Madrid goal in the UEFA Champions League against Bayern Munich four years ago.
“And he’s a player that is very dangerous, and I guess the Premier League could be very good for him and he’s a [Thomas] Tuchel type of player for Chelsea and the way he likes to play football.”
Option 3 line-up (3-4-3)- Mendy; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Rudiger; James, Jorginho, Kante, Alonso; Mount, Saul, Werner.
Source by Football London