London (AFP) – Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel said Romelu Lukaku’s comments that he is unhappy at Stamford Bridge came too close to Sunday’s huge Premier League clash with Liverpool to include the Belgium attacker.
Lukaku, who returned to the Blues for a club record £98 million ($132 million) in August after two successful seasons with Inter Milan, was dropped from Tuchel’s squad for the match.
In an interview with Sky Italy, recorded in mid-December but only aired earlier this week, Lukaku also admitted he would like to return to Inter in the near future.
“The thing got too big, too noisy close to the match,” Tuchel told Sky Sports. “I decided to protect the preparation of the match.
“We’ve spoken twice. He spoke to main players and it is too close to the match. It’s too big, we delayed the decision and we thought why we are delaying it? We need full focus.
“It’s in my opinion easier if he’s not in the squad. For sure It’s difficult, but in my opinion the right decision to make.”
Lukaku was expected to be the final piece in the jigsaw for Chelsea when he joined the Champions League winners in a blockbuster transfer.
The 28-year-old scored on his debut against Arsenal in August among four goals in his first four games.
But he then scored just once in his next 12 appearances either side of suffering an ankle injury in October.
When Lukaku returned after five weeks out, he was unable to regain his place and looked sluggish when he did feature from the bench.
“Physically I am fine. But I’m not happy with the situation at Chelsea,” said Lukaku in the interview.
“Tuchel has chosen to play with another system. I won’t give up, I’ll be professional.”
The former Manchester United striker also tested positive for coronavirus in December to further slow his return to the starting line-up.
However, Lukaku has had a recent upturn in form, scoring in his last two Premier League appearances against Aston Villa and Brighton.
After winning only one of their last four league games, Chelsea trail 11 points behind leaders Manchester City and are only one point ahead of third-placed Liverpool.
The Reds have their own issues ahead of what appears a must-win match for either side if they are to fight for the title.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is isolating along with Alisson Becker, Roberto Firmino and Joel Matip, having returned suspected positive coronavirus tests.
200+ Channels With Sports & News
- Starting price: $33/mo. for fubo Latino Package
- Watch Premier League, World Cup, Euro 2024 & more
- Includes NBC, USA, FOX, ESPN, CBSSN & more
Live & On Demand TV Streaming
- Price: $69.99/mo. for Entertainment package
- Watch World Cup, Euro 2024 & MLS
- Includes ESPN, ESPN2, FS1 + local channels
Many Sports & ESPN Originals
- Price: $6.99/mo. (or get ESPN+, Hulu & Disney+ for $13.99/mo.)
- Features Bundesliga, LaLiga, Championship, & more
- Also includes daily ESPN FC news & highlights show
2,000+ soccer games per year
- Price: $4.99/mo
- Features Champions League, Serie A, Europa League & NWSL
- Includes CBS, Star Trek & CBS Sports HQ
175 Premier League Games & PL TV
- Starting price: $4.99/mo. for Peacock Premium
- Watch 175 exclusive EPL games per season
- Includes Premier League TV channel plus movies, TV shows & more
- Klopp named Premier League manager of the year
- Premier League season 2nd most-watched ever in US history
- Euro titles ‘no help’ to Mourinho ahead of Conference League final
- Premier League approve Boehly’s takeover of Chelsea
- Premier League board approve Chelsea takeover by Boehly group
- Top 15 US TV markets for Premier League viewership
- England boss Southgate concerned by rise in fan disorder
- Who is the greatest soccer player of all time?
- Spurs make £150m investment as Conte eyes transfer splash
- Real Madrid will keep winning without Mbappe, says Casemiro