Thomas Tuchel has explained why Romelu Lukaku was benched in the first leg of the Champions League round of 16 encounter against Lille.
The choice paid off handsomely, as his side defeated the Ligue 1 champions 2-0 at Stamford Bridge.
Lukaku was coming off a dreadful Premier League performance against Crystal Palace.
Hakim Ziyech saved the blues with a late winner in a game in which the ex-Inter Milan striker had the fewest touches in a Premier League game since Opta began tracking the stat.
Tuchel noted during the post-match press conference (h/t Football.London) that Lukaku, 28, is physically and mentally exhausted, which did not suit the demanding tactics they used against the French team.
“Every game is different. The focus today was on intensity, a high-speed game, hard work against the ball. Romelu is not only physically tired but mentally tired. Since the Liverpool game, he has started every match for us and played some extra time. It was not the moment after the match where everybody was focused on his touches. It wasn’t the moment to put him in the fire, it was a moment to take a step back.”
The German manager implied that the reaction to Lukaku’s performance against Palace affected his choice.
He wanted to relieve some of the pressure on the Belgian international and give him a break. Surprisingly, the forward did not participate in the Blues’ post-match training sessions, a decision Tuchel attributed to the team’s fitness department.
Chelsea’s record signing might benefit from some time off to reflect on his mistakes with the West London side.
That could aid him in overcoming the challenges he has had since leaving Inter Milan last summer.
With the Carabao Cup final against Liverpool just around the corner, it’ll be interesting to see if the former Manchester United striker can get a start this weekend.