Lukaku dropped by Tuchel from Chelsea squad for Liverpool clash

Thomas Tuchel dropped Romelu Lukaku from Chelsea's squad for Sunday's 2-2 draw with Liverpool after the striker conducted a controversial interview behind the club's back that was published this week.

The Belgian was not even on the bench after he was judged to have criticised his manager's tactics.

It has since emerged that neither the club nor the player's representatives knew of the interview beforehand. It appears to have been arranged directly with the Sky Sport Italia journalist in London.

What has been said?

Explaining his decision to Sky Sports, Tuchel said before the game: "The thing got too big, the thing got too noisy so close to the match, so I decided to protect the preparation of the match, and that's why he's out.

"Of course we have spoken, we've spoken twice, I've spoken to the main players, of course and after that we had to realise it's too close to the match, it's too big.

"We delayed the decision about what to do. We need to protect the preparation of the match. We have a big match of football to play and we need full focus, which is hard to get anyway - hard even with this decision. But it is, in my opinion, easier if he's not in the squad, and that's why we did it.

"For sure it's a difficult decision to take but in my opinion, it was the decision to take."

After the match, Tuchel reiterated that Lukaku's exclusion is far from permanent as he remains a key part of Chelsea's plans.

"He is our player," the Chelsea boss said. "There is always a way back, we will clear this behind closed doors and once we have made a decision and Romelu knows, you will maybe know also. It is not to be discussed now."

Why does Lukaku face discipline?

The 28-year-old was disciplined despite the magnitude of Chelsea's clash with Liverpool at Stamford Bridge on Sunday evening.

His comments became football's biggest talking point on Thursday, outraging the west London club's fan base.

"I’m not happy with the situation and that’s only natural," Lukaku told Sky Sport Italia. "The head coach has decided to play a different system and I mustn’t let up, I need to keep working hard and be professional.

"I’m not happy with the situation but I’m a grafter and I mustn’t let up."

The timing of the story was unfortunate as it was published three weeks after it was filmed, with it released amid a drastic downturn in form for the Blues.

Although the context may have changed, the content of the quotes have frustrated many people around Lukaku.

Tuchel was relaxed with the media's persistent questioning on Friday morning, however behind closed doors, several sources have said that the manager is angrier than it looked with his £97.5 million ($136m) signing from Inter.

Further talks are now being planned, with former Manchester United and Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard revealing that he has been in text message contact with Lukaku.

NBC Sports report that the Belgian striker has said: "I can’t say too much. The situation is hot. I have another meeting on Monday. After that, I can say more."

Who played instead?

Kai Havertz replacedLukaku despite a prolonged spell on the sidelines with Covid.

The Blues have also welcomed Timo Werner back into their fold, but he is still struggling to overcome his own bout of the virus and was not involved against Liverpool.

Christian Pulisic was another option to play through the middle, but he had struggled to perform in a central role in recent weeks. The U.S. men's national team star, though, did join Matteo Kovacic on the scoresheet as Chelsea erased a 2-0 deficit to earn a point.

It's unfortunate timing for the Blues as Lukaku had been in good form of late, scoring two goals in two games after returning from Covid.

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