Romelu Lukaku must pass Leeds test to book FA Cup final spot as he looks to kick-start Chelsea career at last


Thomas Tuchel had no words of advice for Erling Haaland ahead of his move to Manchester City. But the message to Romelu Lukaku was clear: Play your way into the FA Cup final.

Lukaku is set to start back-to-back games for the first time since February when Chelsea play Leeds tonight, with Tuchel admitting the striker’s two goals against Wolves over the weekend make him undroppable.

If the Belgium international can get on the scoresheet again at Elland Road, it would put enormous pressure on his manager to name him in the starting lineup for Saturday’s Wembley date with Liverpool.

That was unthinkable before the weekend, with Lukaku enduring a miserable return to Chelsea following his club-record £97.5million move from Inter Milan last summer.

The 28-year-old has suffered with injury and illness, and strained his relationship with Tuchel when questioning the German’s tactics during an interview with Italian TV in December. He has since been pushed to the fringes – starting only four of the last 18 games – with his future at Stamford Bridge in serious doubt.

Haaland was Chelsea’s top striker target last summer, but has now agreed a £51m move to City at the end of the season. With the issues he has faced with Lukaku, Tuchel was in no mood to discuss how the Norwegian will handle his switch to the Premier League.

“Me, giving advice to Haaland?” he said. “No advice. If he does not play for us, I will not give any advice.”

But he was more forthcoming with Lukaku, who he refused to heap praise on after Chelsea threw away a two-goal lead against Wolves.

That was greeted with surprise by sources close to the forward. Tuchel explained ahead of Leeds: “It was simply not the moment. The disappointment was huge and in the end it’s a team effort and it’s a team sport.

“We want anybody in the team not to be happy if they don’t win. But if it is a 3-3 and your No9 scores three goals he may be the only one. Okay he can go off with a smile because he did more or less his job.

“I do understand it and he gets the praise for it, but right after the game in the press conference the disappointment was bigger.”

Tuchel has publicly claimed Lukaku still has a future at Chelsea, but the player is unhappy about the amount of game time he is getting. The club also know they have little chance to recoup the money they spent on him, with his wages also ruling out all but a handful of clubs from being able to make a move.

Lukaku’s double at the weekend moved him clear of Kai Havertz as Chelsea’s leading scorer this season with 14 goals and Tuchel has told him to use that as a platform to kick-start his Stamford Bridge career.

“He is more than welcome to show it all the time,” he said. “He has been scoring goals since he was six years old. It is in his body and this is what I tell him all the time – to trust your body, trust your brain, trust your instincts.

“You know how to do it. You will never forget how to score, but he needs a spark and hopefully this was it and he can continue. It is always a good moment to have your striker in confidence and in shape.

“Many strikers, once they start thinking, it is not a good thing because they should trust their instincts. When they do not get enough minutes they start thinking about their situation and it starts a cycle where it is hard to climb out.

“In general, he is very committed in training, he is committed as a team player. That is what we love about him. No big ego. No ego at all.

“No thoughts that his situation is unacceptable at all. It was deserved that he started and deserved that he scored and let’s hope it can continue.”