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Thomas Tuchel pledges Chelsea’s full protection for struggling Romelu Lukaku

Lukaku had just seven touches of the ball in Saturday’s 1-0 Premier League win at Crystal Palace.

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Thomas Tuchel has moved to defend Romelu Lukaku amid his continued Chelsea struggles (Adam Davy/PA)

Thomas Tuchel has moved to defend Romelu Lukaku amid his continued Chelsea struggles (Adam Davy/PA)

Thomas Tuchel has moved to defend Romelu Lukaku amid his continued Chelsea struggles (Adam Davy/PA)

Thomas Tuchel has insisted Romelu Lukaku’s struggles are no laughing matter, pledging Chelsea’s full protection for the Belgium striker.

Lukaku had just seven touches of the ball in Saturday’s 1-0 Premier League win at Crystal Palace in another testing outing for the Blues.

The £98million club-record signing’s battle to find his Stamford Bridge niche looks likely to rumble on, leaving boss Tuchel quick to leap to his defence.

“Well, now we have to deal with it, the data is out there and speaks a certain language,” said Tuchel.

“He was not much involved in our game and it’s sometimes like this with strikers.

“If they struggle a bit with self-confidence, if they struggle a little bit to find the space and to get involved against a defensive side, it can be like this.

“It’s of course not what we want and not what Romelu wants.

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Thomas Tuchel has opened up on Romelu Lukaku’s tactical issues at Chelsea (Martin Rickett/PA)

Thomas Tuchel has opened up on Romelu Lukaku’s tactical issues at Chelsea (Martin Rickett/PA)

Thomas Tuchel has opened up on Romelu Lukaku’s tactical issues at Chelsea (Martin Rickett/PA)

[/caption]“But it’s also not the time to laugh about him, make jokes about him. He’s in the spotlight of course, and we will protect him.”

Tuchel vowed to turn Chelsea into a team nobody wanted to play against when taking the west London helm and his Blues have always proved resolute defensively.

And the former Paris St Germain coach admitted that teak-tough set-up could impact on Lukaku’s capabilities.

Asked if Lukaku’s travails could be a consequence of the well-honed defensive set-up, Tuchel replied: “Yes, maybe, maybe. There’s even a history of strikers struggling a little bit at Chelsea, so it’s not the easiest place in the world for strikers, obviously.

“I don’t know exactly why it’s like this, but obviously it’s like this.

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“In my opinion Chelsea is also a team considered as a strong defensive team, a physical team that has a certain attitude and grit in playing competitive football.

“We demand a lot from our strikers in terms of defending.

“We want to be a physical, hard-working group, that does not shy away from making it a physical game and not only a skilful game. And that maybe plays a part, yes.

“We have many games throughout our time together, when we’ve created many chances, many deliveries and have struggled a bit in conversion.

“Now in the moment it’s a bit of time where we struggle to create many big chances for our strikers.

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Cesar Azpilicueta could return for Chelsea after injury (Adam Davy/PA)

Cesar Azpilicueta could return for Chelsea after injury (Adam Davy/PA)

Cesar Azpilicueta could return for Chelsea after injury (Adam Davy/PA)

“This is also maybe a normal period in a long season. So we are on the subject, we are well aware. And like always in football, it’s not only one reason to solve the problem.

“It’s a very complex sport and we try to keep on playing with faith in what we do and belief in the team effort – and from there we go.”

Chelsea host Lille on Tuesday in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie, with Tuchel determined to see the Blues forge on in the defence of their European crown.

Cesar Azpilicueta could be fit to return after a groin issue, though Callum Hudson-Odoi’s chances appear far slimmer due to an Achilles concern.

Mason Mount could make the bench after an ankle problem but is unlikely to be ready to start.

Mount should remain on course to be able to start Sunday’s Carabao Cup final against Liverpool however.

“Azpi looks much better than Callum, to start with these two,” said Tuchel.

Mason did a very good individual session, I think he will try to come back to team training todayThomas Tuchel

“Callum did not train yesterday, Azpi trained and has had no reaction, so if it stays like this – which it seems to be – then he’s available for tomorrow.

“Mason did a very good individual session, I think he will try to come back to team training today.

“But he was out maybe a little bit too long to start, but perhaps he can be involved in the squad, but he has not trained with the team yet.”

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