EFL

Lukaku on bench again for Chelsea in EFL Cup final

By Sports Desk February 27, 2022

Romelu Lukaku was named on the bench for a second straight game by Thomas Tuchel in Sunday's EFL Cup final, while Chelsea opted for Edouard Mendy ahead of Kepa Arrizabalaga against Liverpool.

Lukaku's role in the Chelsea team has been the subject of some debate all season long and came to the fore again following his display in the 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace in the Premier League on February 19. 

The Belgium striker managed just seven touches – the fewest of any player to complete 90 minutes in a single top-flight game since Opta has the data available (2003-04) – and was subsequently dropped to the bench for the win over Lille in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Tuchel said that decision was made to keep Lukaku out of "the next fire", seemingly hinting at a return at Wembley, but Kai Havertz was again preferred when the Chelsea team was announced on Sunday.

Tuchel's other conundrum was whether to start Kepa, who has starred as Chelsea's cup goalkeeper. However, first-choice Mendy, as in the Club World Cup final, was preferred.

Hakim Ziyech did not make the matchday squad, but Mateo Kovacic was named in the XI. Both men had hobbled off against Lille.

Andreas Christensen's absence created space for Trevoh Chalobah to be brought in, while Reece James returned to the bench for the first time since suffering a hamstring injury on December 29 against Brighton and Hove Albion.

Jurgen Klopp made for two alterations to the Liverpool line-up that hammered Leeds United 6-0 on Wednesday, keeping faith with his cup keeper in Caoimhin Kelleher while Jordan Henderson returned.

Diogo Jota made the bench after missing Premier League wins over Norwich City and Leeds, following a knock picked up against Inter in the Champions League on February 16.

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