Thomas Tuchel has offered Romelu Lukaku support after the Chelsea striker touched the ball just seven times against Crystal Palace, insisting "it's not the time to laugh about him".
Lukaku was handed his 12th Premier League start of the season at Selhurst Park on Saturday, but failed to make an impact as the Blues laboured to an unconvincing 1-0 victory.
The Belgium international, who returned to Stamford Bridge from Inter in a £98 million ($133m) deal last summer, was unable to muster a single shot at goal and only had seven touches - fewer than any other player to see 90 minutes of action this season.
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What's been said?
Chelsea are now looking ahead to the first leg of their round of 16 Champions League tie against Lille, and Lukaku is in contention to lead the line once again.
Tuchel jumped to the forward's defence at his pre-match press conference, telling reporters: "It's not the time to laugh about him, he is our player and we will protect him."
The Blues head coach is aware of the damning statistics Lukaku posted against Palace, but has played down their significance and written his performance off as a bad day at the office.
"What can I do? I don't know. Well, we have to deal with it," Tuchel added. "The data is out there and speaks the language that he wasn't in our game.
"With strikers, it can be like this when they lack confidence or depending on the game."
Lukaku's record at Chelsea in 2021-22
Lukaku's poor showing at Palace came on the back of his star turn at the FIFA Club World Cup, as he fired Chelsea's winner in the last four against Al-Hilal before also scoring in their final victory against Palmeiras.
Those two goals took the 28-year-old's overall tally for the campaign to 10 from 28 appearances, but only five of those have come in the Premier League.
The Blues faithful will hope that Lukaku can rediscover his scoring touch against Lille on Tuesday night before Tuchel's side turn their attention to a Carabao Cup final date against Liverpool on February 27.