ROMELU LUKAKU will not only be hoping to send Liverpool spinning out of title contention – he will also be trying to work his way back into the hearts of the Chelsea fans.
Lukaku’s place as a favourite at Stamford Bridge has been destroyed by the striker’s amazing decision to declare his love for Inter Milan this week.
The 28-year-old’s attempts to get back into the good books of the Inter spectators has backfired completely and his admission he would not have joined Chelsea if the Serie A club offer him a new deal has led to fury among the Blues faithful.
With Timo Werner missing as he still tries to beat the effects of coronavirus, Thomas Tuchel is left with little option but to start the £97.5million striker regardless of the shockwaves the unsanctioned interview sent through the club.
Sunday’s clash between second and third in the Premier League on any normal day would be massive as two of the country’s best sides go head to head.
But it has now taken on enormous importance to Lukaku who does not even know if he will face jeers from his own fans when he takes to the pitch.
He is the figurehead to the Chelsea side, and being in top form to wreak havoc among the Liverpool defensive pair of Joel Matip and Virgil van Dijk will be crucial to the outcome.
By kick-off the Belgian will have been read the riot act by his manager who was fuming not only at the timing of the interview but the stupidity of actually saying what he did in the first place.
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But Chelsea somehow have to banish the frustrations at the build-up to the game to somehow summon up the strength to produce their best football at a time when their form is disappointing at best.
Injuries to Reece James and Ben Chilwell have completely ripped the attacking threat of the team out of the side on both wings, while the squad has other fitness and illness worries to contend with.
They know there is little margin to slip up with Manchester City setting such a hot pace in the race to be crowned Premier League champions.
Neither Tuchel or Jurgen Klopp would concede the title if they were to lose this game, but realistically defeat would leave the losers with an almost insurmountable mountain to climb.
Going into this round of fixtures the Blues are eight points behind City, and if that gap extends to double figures it would take a brave person to believe they would be able to make up that ground.
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While the jeopardy of defeat is high, so too is the value of victory because that would leave Liverpool potentially 12 points behind Pep Guardiola’s men, and four points behind the Blues.
With the likes of Arsenal and Tottenham showing improving form, the threat from behind cannot be underestimated in the battle for Champions League football next season.
So the pressure on Lukaku to let his football do the talking has never been greater. Chelsea will hope their record signing doesn’t choke under the spotlight.
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