Thomas Tuchel defended his decision to pull Romelu Lukaku out of the ‘fire’ as Chelsea took a giant step towards the Champions League quarter final on Tuesday night.
The £97.5million striker was axed for the 2-0 win over Lille on Tuesday night after his now infamous performance against Crystal Palace on Saturday – during which he took just seven touches of the ball.
‘This was not the moment after the match where everybody was focused on the few touches he had to put him right away into the next fire,’ said Tuchel.
Thomas Tuchel (right) defended his decision to drop Romelu Lukaku (left) on Tuesday
Lukaku was an unused substitute for the 2-0 Champions League last-16 win over Lille
‘It was the moment to take a step back. That was the decision and you can clearly see we had a strong win but almost every question is about Romelu. The focus is huge.
‘There are nine other players that didn’t play and we should never forget it is a team sport. I think he was tired, a little bit exhausted, lot of extra time, lot of travelling like some of the players.
‘The focus was today on intensity, a high speed game and also hard work on the ball and off the ball.
‘To have intense team work, and Romelu struggled in the last games to deliver that. That’s what I mean when I said tired. Not only physically tired but mentally tired.’
Lukaku was dropped after he touched the ball just seven times at Crystal Palace on Saturday
Intriguingly, Lukaku didn’t appear with his fellow substitutes for a post-match warm down, raising further suspicion after the game.
On the matter, Tuchel added: ‘I don’t actually know, the fitness guys take care of that. They for sure have a reason if he was not out. They have individual programmes for each player.’
On his team’s dominant display, which barring a shock in the away leg next month should be enough to ensure their passage into the next round, Tuchel added: ‘Through periods, yes, I thought we were more fluid.
Lukaku’s replacement Kai Havertz (left) scored just eight minutes into Tuesday night’s clash
Tuchel was full of praise for N’Golo Kante who set up Christian Pulisic’s (above) second goal
‘We had some very strong periods example in first ten minuted but in some moments we lacked fluidity and had bad decision making. But then we recovered to have strong periods again. This is a bit the story at the moment.’
Finally, Tuchel reserved special praise for N’Golo Kante’s brilliant midfield display, adding: ‘He had some problems to find his strengths and rhythm after his injury and after he was out for some games he was back on top level tonight and got better with every minute throughout the game and instantly had a huge impact.
‘It is not a surprise, we are waiting some games now and today he found his rhythm. It was a huge impact and absolutely top performance.’
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