Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel has provided an update on the fitness of striker Romelu Lukaku, ahead of Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final showdown with Crystal Palace.
What’s the word?
Speaking in his pre-match press conference, the German revealed that the former Manchester United man could well be available this weekend, with no fresh injury concerns to contend with ahead of the trip to Wembley.
As reported on football.london, Tuchel was asked whether everyone had trained in preparation for that clash with Palace: “Yeah, except for Ben Chilwell and Callum Hudson-Odoi. Everyone seems to be okay. Still have two more training sessions to go, so fingers crossed. Romelu was back in training yesterday. Let’s see if he has any reaction or not. Everyone should be okay.”
The Belgian forward has missed the west London outfit’s last two games – including the midweek trip to Madrid – due to an Achilles injury, although could well feature this weekend, with England duo Ben Chilwell and Callum Hudson-Odoi the only notable absentees at present.
FA Cup credentials
It’s been a largely dismal return to Stamford Bridge for the 28-year-old so far this season, with the club-record arrival having scored just five Premier League goals and fallen out of favour under the former Borussia Dortmund boss, amid reports of a potential return to Inter Milan this summer.
That being said, his return to fitness could well prove to be a significant boost for the Blues on Sunday, such is the one-time Everton man’s excellent record in the FA Cup – both this season and throughout his entire career in English football.
Amid all his struggles for form and fitness, the 101-cap international is still the club’s second-top scorer this term having netted 12 goals across all fronts, with three of those efforts having come during Chelsea’s run to Wembley.
The £76.5m-rated star has netted a goal apiece against Chesterfield, Luton Town and Middlesbrough so far this season, with the competition offering some welcome respite from his lack of game time in the top-flight.
Those strikes have taken his total FA Cup tally to 16 goals since his first in the competition while with the Toffees back in 2014, having memorably bagged five goals in just six games during United’s run to the final in the 2017/18 campaign under Jose Mourinho, as per Transfermarkt.
That total haul also ensures he is in esteemed company, with only former Manchester City icon Sergio Aguero (20) having netted more times since Lukaku made his FA Cup debut a decade ago, during his first spell at his current side.
The £325k-per-week man also has a favourable record against Sunday’s opponents, having bagged an impressive tally of eight goals in just 13 top-flight appearances against the Eagles, while he will be wishing to atone for his display at Selhurst Park earlier this term, in which he made just seven touches in 90 minutes – a record low in the division.
While there’s no getting away from his current struggles – with talkSPORT pundit Tony Cascarino admitting the marksman has “lost total belief in his game” at present – his record in the competition may mean he could well prove the difference against Patrick Vieira’s side.
It could also prove an ideal time for the 6 foot 3 brute to end his Wembley duck.