Monday, October 3, 2022

Lukaku returns to training as Chelsea seek to ´bounce back´ again

SoccerNews in English Premier League 15 Apr 2022

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Thomas Tuchel is relieved Chelsea have the opportunity to quickly get back on track in their FA Cup semi-final against Crystal Palace, for which Romelu Lukaku may be available.

A huge week for Chelsea has been a difficult one so far, as their outstanding performance away to Real Madrid in a Champions League quarter-final was not enough to advance.

Trailing 3-1 from the home leg, the defending European champions were heading through when Timo Werner put them three up, only for Madrid to respond with goals from Rodrygo in normal time and Karim Benzema in extra time.

With Chelsea relatively secure in third place in the Premier League, their main focus now is on the FA Cup.

The Blues at least came through the Madrid second leg unscathed, with Tuchel’s only update before the Palace game on the potential return of record signing Lukaku.

“Romelu was back in training yesterday [Thursday]. Let’s see if he has any reaction or not,” Tuchel told a pre-match news conference. “Then everybody should be okay.”

The Chelsea coach will be looking to preserve his fine semi-final record, having won 11 and drawn one of his 12 previous such matches.

And Tuchel believes Chelsea will benefit from being thrust straight into another big match – this their first FA Cup tie against London rivals Palace since 1975-76, with the two teams each winning two of the four prior meetings.

“I think we are all a bit in between,” Tuchel said. “Confidence wise, I think it’s a huge boost, but still it’s a disappointment to go out of the Champions League in the quarter-final.

“It’s not a big drama, not in this kind of way, but still it’s a big disappointment, because we feel like we could be one of the four teams in the semi-final.

“It’s a weird feeling, because we had a huge task to go to Madrid, needing to win with a minimum of two goals to make it to extra time. We were three goals ahead.

“In a knockout game in the Bernabeu, it’s a fantastic performance and stays like this. But it tastes bitter, because we’re out of the Champions League.

“In both legs, we did too many individual mistakes, too many mistakes that were punished by individual quality.

“It’s still a little bit in between for me, but we bounced back from the two results and the two performances against Brentford and Madrid at home.

“We won both games after that and there’s a big knockout game coming at Wembley, which is, in my opinion, a good thing. There’s a huge reward coming with it, so it’s not a normal game in the Premier League to collect points, but it’s straight away another knockout match.”

Chelsea have plenty of experience of matches of this magnitude, too. Having lost the EFL Cup final to Liverpool earlier this season, they are playing multiple games at Wembley in a sixth consecutive campaign, with this their 40th appearance at the national stadium when used as a neutral venue.

Indeed, only Arsenal and Manchester United (both 30) have more FA Cup semi-final appearances than Chelsea (26).

The Blues have lost their past two FA Cup London derbies, although both were to Arsenal. Their past six FA Cup defeats to teams from the capital were against Arsenal.

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