If Thomas Tuchel is after any advice on how to deal with the Romelu Lukaku issue, the Chelsea head coach could do worse than to have a brief word with the man he will come face-to-face with on Wednesday.

Under now-Tottenham boss Antonio Conte across two seasons with Inter, Lukaku enjoyed the best form of his career, scoring and assisting a combined 81 goals in 95 appearances.

Lukaku has not been as prolific since returning to Stamford Bridge in August, finding the net seven times in 18 games, and already his future at Chelsea has been called into question following an explosive interview in the Italian press that was published last week.

The Belgium international was subsequently dropped for Chelsea's crucial clash with Liverpool on Sunday but is in line return for the EFL Cup semi-final first leg with Spurs after holding clear-the-air talks with his manager, meaning a possible reunion with Conte.

Here, Stats Perform looks at how Conte got Lukaku out of the "deep hole" he found himself in at Manchester United, as the striker himself put it, and explores how Tuchel can go about getting the most out of Chelsea's all-time record purchase.


ROM AMONG EUROPE'S ELITE

As well as declaring an unhappiness with his role at Chelsea and expressing a desire to return to Inter as part of his 30-minute chat with Sky Sport Italia, Lukaku also opened up on the "hurt" he felt when Conte departed San Siro.

That is no surprise given the Belgian's form between arriving at Inter in August 2019 and departing two years later. 

The 47 Serie A goals scored by Lukaku in 72 games under Conte is his best return under any of the 11 managers he has played for at club level, followed by the 43 netted in 103 Premier League games when working with now-national team coach Roberto Martinez at Everton.

That includes a return of 24 goals in 2020-21 alone, on top of 11 assists, as he became the first player to score 20-plus goals and set up 10 or more in a single Serie A season since Opta started to record such data in 2004-05.

Indeed, only Cristiano Ronaldo (83), Kylian Mbappe (97), Lionel Messi (106) and Robert Lewandowski (121) were directly involved in more goals in all competitions among players from Europe's top five leagues than Lukaku's 81 across the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons.

 

FLOPPED IN FAVOURED FORMATION

That impressive form helped Inter end their 11-year wait for Scudetto success last time out, a year on from falling just short in the Europa League with defeat in the final, but Lukaku was not alone in inspiring the Nerazzurri to glory.

Alongside him was Lautaro Martinez, who was very much the perfect foil in Conte's preferred 3-5-2 formation, which the Italian used 31 times in 38 league matches last season.

It is a formation Tuchel has used on only two occasions in the Premier League this term – in September's 1-0 home defeat to Manchester City and the 1-0 victory at Brentford three weeks later. 

Lukaku started both games alongside Timo Werner and Chelsea's tally of five shots against City and five against Brentford are the fewest the Blues have managed in any league game this term – Lukaku responsible for just one of those – as were the four and two chances created respectively.

While City's quality and dominance of the ball must be factored in, Lukaku's minimal involvement against Brentford was surprising – and surely no coincidence.

That west London derby blank came in the midst of a 10-game run without a goal for Lukaku, not helped by niggling injuries and a COVID lay-off, which he has since put an end to with three goals in four matches.

Chelsea's formation in those three most recent games Lukaku has scored in, incidentally, came with three attackers spread across the frontline. And there was one other common denominator, too: Mason Mount being on the field.

 

MOUNT TO PLAY THE MARTINEZ ROLE?

Mount assisted Lukaku's most recent goal in a 1-1 draw against Brighton and Hove Albion from a corner and the pair have combined to create nine chances in total for one another in the league this term, making it easily Chelsea's most dangerous partnership.

No Chelsea player has combined more regularly with Lukaku than Mount, with the pair linking up 10.06 times per 90 minutes so far this season. While that may not appear a huge amount on the face of it, next on that list is Mateo Kovacic with 6.45 combined passes between himself and Lukaku per 90.

However, Mount still has some way to go if he is to match the 54 combined chances created for each other in Serie A by Lukaku and Martinez in their two seasons used in tandem at Inter, which equated to nine assists.

Lukaku's relationship with Mount does provide some promise, though, as does the Anderlecht academy product's goalscoring performances in his most recent two outings prior to being dropped against Liverpool, showing Chelsea do not necessarily have to replicate Inter's system to help their main man thrive.

 

TUCHEL WILL NOT SHIFT

Lukaku is averaging fewer passes, overall touches and touches in the opposition box this season compared to last, while also shooting less frequently, dribbling less and creating fewer chances for others.

Yet instead of attempting to find the perfect formula and personnel for Lukaku, Tuchel will not shift from his own way of thinking.

"We cannot just play like Inter in the hope that will bring the most out of Lukaku. The system they played not only suited Romelu but also Lautaro Martinez and others. If you don't have five players you can't play five defenders," Tuchel said on the eve of the Tottenham tie.

"It works both ways. It is more about principles of how we play. I feel he is more impatient than anything else. He wants to be involved more, wants more big chances. 

"Like with every transfer, you have to accept there is a change of environment, culture, team-mates, playing style, belief. He's not the first player to take time, but even while doing it he was scoring goals."

And maybe Tuchel has a point. After all, for all the talk of Lukaku's struggles and unhappiness, he is scoring at an almost identical rate to Cristiano Ronaldo (0.54 goals per 90 minutes compared to 0.56), and remains one of Europe's most prolific strikers of the past decade.

Now back from injury and a team exile brought on by his own actions, only Lukaku can ensure he avoids falling down another deep hole that he may this time be unable to escape.

Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel refuses to change his playing style to suit striker Romelu Lukaku, insisting "we cannot just play like Inter".

Lukaku caused a stir in a controversial interview released on Thursday and Friday, which was initially recorded three weeks ago, as he expressed his unhappiness with his current status at Chelsea.

He also spoke glowingly of former head coach Antonio Conte, who he worked with at Inter, while revealing he would like to return to the Serie A outfit one day.

Tuchel punished Lukaku for his comments by dropping him from his squad to face Liverpool before the pair held talks on Monday and they looked to put the matter aside the following day.

Lukaku has since come out to apologise to all involved at Chelsea, perhaps much to the relief of Tuchel, but the German insisted he will not change his playing style just to suit the forward.

Asked about Lukaku's comments on Conte and Chelsea's playing style, Tuchel said: "It works both ways and we do it with every single player, we have a certain formation and principles of how we play.

"I feel he is more impatient than anything else, he wants to be involved more and have big chances more.

"It is hard for him to accept that sometimes the grass does not grow faster when you cut it – in every transfer you have to accept there is a change of environment, culture, club and team-mates.

"There's a change of playing style and there's a change of league, he's not the first player to take some time - he was already scoring while settling down but we were still adapting to each other.

"We cannot just play like Inter plays and hope that will bring the best out of Romelu. They had a fantastic season because Conte is a fantastic coach.

"But I think the system he played at Inter did not only suit Romelu and the second striker Lautaro Martinez, it also fitted the entire squad. If you don't have five defenders you cannot play with a back five, it's as easy as that.

"The coaches do what they have to do, Conte played in 3-5-2 in the build-up at Chelsea and 3-4-3 at Inter. Obviously he is adapting to his players and from there implanting his ideas – that is exactly what I do as well."

The Belgian scored 47 times in 72 league outings with Conte at Inter – his best such tally under any manager – for a return of 0.72 goals per 90 minutes.

That compares to 0.54 goals per 90 minutes for Chelsea across his 13 games since returning, with the striker failing to assist a goal as of yet.

But Tuchel added that no player operating under his stewardship will be treated any differently to the other, with he and his backroom staff understanding it is their job to maximise the potential of their stars.

"It is of course for us to bring out the best of him, find the right position for him and the right connections to understand which movements and playing styles fit to each other," he continued.

"This is what we do for every single player, it does not matter if the player is expensive or a free agent, or if he's old or young, it does not change.

"In the end it is on the player, we can just help to fulfil his potential. Sometimes it is faster or slower, but everyone does their very best to bring out the full potential – we are still convinced there is room for improvement.

"That's why I was surprised, I don't feel him unhappy, not at all. I was not at all offended as a coach, that's why I don't see a big change in our relationship coming."

Chelsea face Conte's new side Tottenham on Wednesday as the pair do battle in the EFL Cup semi-final first leg at Stamford Bridge.

Indeed, Conte previously managed the Blues between 2016 and 2018, winning the Premier League and the FA Cup, and Tuchel was incredibly complimentary of the Italian manager.

"He puts them in positions where they are confident so they can fulfil their potential, this is what Antonio Conte is doing on the domestic level to an outstanding impact," he continued.

"I have nothing but respect for him and I really love to watch his teams play, it will be a pleasure to play against him. We're fully aware how successful he was with Chelsea, I have no doubt how successful he will be with Tottenham.

"I met him once in a friendly match and we had a nice talk during the warm-up. He knows I appreciate a lot what he is doing, his style and all his energy into his team.

"You can clearly see that in any club that he works, you see it is a Conte team as they defend and attack with all the intensity.

"His teams are very hard to beat, it has always been like this and it will be like that on Wednesday."

Antonio Conte labelled his Tottenham appointment as a signal of intent to their competitors and to Harry Kane.

Kane endured a tough start to the 2021-22 campaign, scoring just one goal in his first 13 league games after seemingly having his head turned amid interest from Pep Guardiola's Manchester City.

Spurs, without their talisman Kane firing, suffered in the league and were ninth after five top-flight losses in seven games before the former Inter head coach took charge in the wake of Nuno Espirito Santo's sacking.

They have since appeared revitalised under Conte, who set and then extended a club record as he remains unbeaten in his opening eight league games.

It is a run which has propelled Tottenham to sixth, two points behind fourth-placed rivals Arsenal while still boasting two games in hand.

Kane has also started to find the net, managing three goals in his last four Premier League games, and Conte outlined how Spurs' standpoint with their striker during the interest from City displayed their desire to build something special.

"I followed the situation about Harry and I have seen what happened and what could happen," he said. "The club decided to keep Harry in the team and it was a great choice of the owner. 

"You are showing you want to continue to build something important around one of the best players in the team.

"Harry is a player of Tottenham and continues to be one of the best in the team. He's a point of reference in the dressing room.

"I think Tottenham wanted to bring me here to send a signal outside and also to our players."

The England captain has won the Premier League Golden Boot award three times but has never lifted any trophies with Spurs during his time at the club.

Questions have been raised as to whether the striker will chase silverware and leave his boyhood club, though Conte feels he understands why Kane is yet to move on.

"Yeah I understand Harry's situation because for sure when you finish your career you can see your appearances and the team where you played but at the same time it's right also to see what you have won," he continued. 

"I think that this is important for top players because sometimes it happens that important players finish their career with a couple of titles and others below them have more.

"We are talking about a really good person and a good man. This is the most important thing, I knew the situation in the summer but then when Harry decided to stay I had found a player totally involved in the project. 

"I'm happy to have him in my team, we're talking about a top player and a top striker. He knows well my opinion but I repeat I'm very happy to work with him."

 

Conte will be hoping Kane can blast Spurs past his former side Chelsea in the EFL Cup semi-final when the first leg takes place on Wednesday.

Both of Conte's previous two losses in the competition have come against London sides, losing to West Ham in 2016-17 and to Arsenal over two legs in the 2017-18 semi-final.

While Spurs have progressed from six of their last eight EFL Cup semi-final ties, Conte believes there is a sizeable rebuilding job to do after the departure of Mauricio Pochettino, who guided Tottenham to the Champions League final in 2018-19.

"I have to be honest, if we have to compare this Tottenham and in the past I think in the past Tottenham was a team with many players with more experience in the league," he added.

"They had good momentum in the past to try and win something. Now, I think we're in a moment when we're starting again.

"We lost many players and now there are young players you have to wait. To get the right mentality, to win, you must have the right mentality. 

"It means you must be focused every day. You have to think football more than two or three hours in your day.

"You make yourself to be a winner but you need time and people that transfer you the right sensation and thoughts every day - but you need time.

"I think Mauricio did a fantastic job as he took a group of young players and they grew and became a contender for the title. I remember at Chelsea they fought until the end with us and Leicester [City]. 

"The level now has dropped a bit as players left and now we have to try to have the time and patience to build again a good situation."

Romelu Lukaku has apologised to all involved at Chelsea for a controversial interview released last week as he looks to move forward from his mistake.

Lukaku was left out of Chelsea's Premier League squad on Sunday for the 2-2 draw with Liverpool as punishment for comments made in the Italian press.

In a wide-ranging discussion, Lukaku said he was not "very happy with the situation" at Chelsea and expressed a willingness to return to Inter someday.

The interview was conducted three weeks ago but was released in parts on Thursday and Friday, with Blues head coach Thomas Tuchel subsequently standing by his decision to leave Lukaku out of his side as he looked to quash the issue temporarily.

Rumours suggested the Belgium international could be heading for a Stamford Bridge exit, but Tuchel has since confirmed Lukaku returned to training on Tuesday following talks the previous day.

Lukaku has now come out to address the matter in public in an attempt to put the issue to one side.

"To the fans, I'm sorry for the upset I have caused," he said in an interview published by Chelsea's website.

"You guys know the connection I have had with this club since my teenage years, so you know I totally understand you guys being upset.

"Obviously it's up to me now to restore your trust, and every day I will do my best on the training ground and in the games to try to help us win.

"To the manager I apologise, and to my team-mates and the board because I think it was not the right moment also.

"I want to move forward from this and make sure that we start winning football games and I can help the team in the best manner."

Lukaku revealed in the previous interview that he would one day like to return to Inter, where he enjoyed playing under former head coach Antonio Conte.

The striker's comments were met with disdain by Inter fans, but Lukaku has tried to clarify why he agreed to the interview in the first place.

"I should've been much clearer in my message to be totally honest," he continued.

"The interview was about saying goodbye to the Inter fans, it was not about trying to disrespect the [Chelsea] fans and the football club, the owner, my team-mates and the manager.

"They made a lot of effort to bring me back here and I wanted to come back here, I’ve been on a mission since I left.

"They [the fans] don't need to question [my commitment]. I always said I wanted to come here and to be successful, that's why I signed a five-year deal. I think Chelsea is a club that equals success.

"All the players that come here come for winning and I have a special passion for this club. I want to achieve that with this club, I want to win here for many years. I want to make sure I show my commitment every day.

"There are images when I came with my school on a trip that I wanted to play for Chelsea. I came when I was 18, it didn't go so well, now I'm back at 28 in the prime years of my career, I can't mess this up.

"I worked hard for the last 10 years to get this opportunity and I'm really happy to be here."

Lukaku, if selected, will look to redeem himself on the pitch against Conte's Tottenham on Wednesday in the first leg of their EFL Cup semi-final.

Liverpool have formally requested the postponement of their upcoming EFL Cup semi-final first leg against Arsenal.

The game, due to be played at Emirates Stadium on Thursday, is now in doubt after the Merseyside club confirmed an "escalating number" of suspected COVID-19 cases.

A statement on the club's official website on Tuesday read: "Liverpool Football Club can confirm an application has been submitted for the postponement of Thursday's Carabao Cup semi-final, first-leg tie with Arsenal due to an escalating number of suspected positive COVID-19 cases and player availability.

"The Reds have formally requested to the EFL that the fixture is rescheduled after further suspected positive tests were registered among players and staff, allied to other factors impacting selection, including illness and injury."

Liverpool also confirmed that Tuesday's training session at the AXA Training Centre had been cancelled.

Jurgen Klopp's side had only just welcomed Fabinho, Virgil van Dijk and Curtis Jones back after positive cases when they lost Alisson Becker, Joel Matip, Roberto Firmino and Klopp himself for the same reason ahead of Sunday's 2-2 draw at Chelsea in the Premier League.

The Reds were also without Thiago, Takumi Minamino, Divock Origi, Nat Phillips and Harvey Elliott at Stamford Bridge through injury, while Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita have left to compete in the Africa Cup of Nations.

"With no prospect of the current situation improving ahead of Thursday’s fixture and the potential for it to worsen, the club considers it both prudent and reasonable to ask for the fixture to be rescheduled," the club's statement added.

"Liverpool FC will offer a further update on the application process, as well as the resumption of training, in due course."

The 2019-20 Premier League champions are due to entertain League One outfit Shrewsbury Town in the FA Cup third round at Anfield on Sunday.

Thomas Tuchel insisted Chelsea are "trying their very best" to tie the impressive Antonio Rudiger to a new contract, while also hailing the evergreen Thiago Silva.

Rudiger joined from Roma in July 2017 and has been an integral part of the Blues' backline under Tuchel, starting the most games since the German's arrival last January (50) and ranking first for minutes played (4,575).

However, the centre-back's contract is due to expire at the end of the season, with clubs now able to negotiate with the 28-year-old should he not agree on negotiations with Chelsea.

A host of Europe's elite clubs, including Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, have been linked with the defender but Tuchel remains hopeful his international compatriot will commit his future to the Champions League winners.

Tuchel told reporters on Tuesday: "I cannot predict the future. I don't know if his representatives talk to other clubs. If you know so, or assume so, fair enough. 

"It is possible now because it is January and he has not signed yet. As I understand it, we are in communication with him. The club are in communication. He is aware of what I demand, how I appreciate to work with him. 

"The level which he is playing is still super high and outstanding. There are no doubts that the situation is a concern for that. The point is very clear, my opinion is very clear. The club is trying the very best and their communication is going on. It has not changed a lot."


Unlike his defensive partner Rudiger, Silva has already signed fresh terms at Stamford Bridge after continuing to impress following his free transfer from Paris Saint-Germain ahead of the 2020-21 campaign, in which he made 34 appearances across all competitions.

The club exercised the option for a one-year extension last season and did so again on Monday, ensuring the 37-year-old will remain a Blue for at least one more campaign.

Silva has made 22 appearances across all competitions this season, with his total of 19 blocks the third-highest by a defender in the Premier League after West Ham's Craig Dawson (24) and Burnley's James Tarkowski (29).

Indeed, no other Chelsea defender has made more than six blocks, and Tuchel credited the Brazil international's efforts.

He added on Silva: "Benjamin Button. Thiago Button of football! I know how much work, how much professional attitude is behind that. 

"It is a miracle in a way. He came to this league, this schedule, this approach and intensity of a daily business, in the every end of his career. This was very brave. I know how much effort he puts in to stay fit. 

"Off the pitch, at home, he takes care of his recovery and sleep, of his nutrition. This is outstanding. Only because of that this is possible. We are happy because the new contract makes him calm. 

"Thiago needs to be calm because he is a very sensitive and emotional person. This makes him very precious for our team and for our dressing room. He can feel emotions, he can feel different state of emotions from others and can help so much. 

"He is calm, he has huge targets. He is a big impact, he is available how he needs to be available. When he plays he plays strong, it's a big help. Good for him and good for us."

The defensive duo are set to be in action once more in Wednesday's EFL Cup semi-final first leg against Tottenham, after Tuchel confirmed Trevoh Chalobah and Andreas Christensen as likely injury absentees.

Romelu Lukaku has apologised to Thomas Tuchel for a controversial interview released last week and feels a responsibility to "clean the mess up", according to the Chelsea head coach.

Lukaku was left out of Chelsea's 20-man squad for Sunday's crucial Premier League clash with Liverpool due to comments made in the Italian press.

In the wide-ranging 30-minute discussion, Lukaku said he "is not very happy with the situation" he finds himself in at Chelsea and expressed his desire to one day return to Inter.

The interview, which was conducted three weeks ago but only aired on Thursday and Friday, dominated the pre-match talk ahead of the Blues' 2-2 draw with Liverpool.

Tuchel later stood by his decision to omit the Belgium international, who had scored in Chelsea's previous two games, stating that the issue "got too big and too noisy".

Speculation in the subsequent days has suggested Lukaku, who rejoined the Blues for a club-record fee in August, could be on his way out of Stamford Bridge this year.

But after holding clear-the-air talks with Lukaku on Monday, and with the 28-year-old returning to training on Tuesday, Tuchel is hoping to draw a line under the matter.

"We were happy we took the time to look calmly on it. He apologised and is back in the squad for today's training," Tuchel said at a news conference on Tuesday.

"For me, the most important thing was to understand. He did not do this intentionally to create this kind of noise in front of a big game.

"There are zero doubts about his commitment to the team and the club. Romelu is very aware of what happened and what he created.

"I never, before the interview, had the slightest doubt that he was not committed. He is an emotional guy, he does not hold back with his opinion. 

"We should not just blame him and point on the negative side of it. It created some noise that you don't want but there are zero doubts in his commitment to the team."

Lukaku has scored seven goals in 18 appearances since returning to Chelsea in a campaign blighted by an ankle injury and a positive test for coronavirus.

While Tuchel has accepted Lukaku's apology, it remains to be seen whether he will be welcomed back by Chelsea fans after he admitted his preferred choice was to stay at Inter.

Asked about what reception Lukaku can expect, Tuchel said: "He is aware of what happened and he created and feels the responsibility to clean the mess up.

"But there may still be a smell of course. We are happy that he is our player and we will protect him. If someone strongly disagrees, this is about the team with everything we do.

"Of course he should have known better but that is why we have cleared the air together."

Lukaku is now in contention to return to Chelsea's line-up for Wednesday's EFL Cup semi-final first leg against Tottenham, who are managed by his ex-Inter boss Antonio Conte.

The Belgian scored 47 goals in 72 league appearances with Conte at Inter – his best such tally under any manager – for a return of 0.72 goals per 90 minutes.

That compares to 0.54 goals per 90 minutes for Chelsea across his 13 games since returning, with the striker having also yet to assist a goal.

Tuchel does not believe it is down to him to get more out of Lukaku, however, but more to do with the former Manchester United man readapting to the Premier League.

"I think the players get the best out of themselves," he said. "With Romelu it is not about finding positions. He is a striker, a number nine and that is it. 

"It is about adaption to a different team, team-mates, then comes COVID. We are in a totally normal place with him."

Tottenham boss Antonio Conte believes his former side Chelsea are "more ready" to win trophies than his current employers.

Conte returned to London in early November and remains unbeaten in a club-record eight league games since his arrival, pushing Spurs up to sixth and just two points behind fourth-placed Arsenal while still boasting two games in hand.

The former Inter head coach also oversaw a 2-1 EFL Cup quarter-final win over West Ham, teeing up a double-header with Thomas Tuchel's side for a place in the final at Wembley.

Spurs have progressed from six of their last eight EFL Cup semi-final ties, failing only in 2006-07 against Arsenal and 2018-19 versus Chelsea, but Conte believes his former club are better prepared for success currently.

"I think that for everyone it's always very important to win trophies – for the club, for the players, for the managers," Conte told reporters at Monday's pre-match news conference. 

"On one hand, I have to tell you this. On the other, I think you have to build to win trophies. You can win trophies by speaking and saying you want to win. But then you have to be good and build something ready to win.

"I think at this moment, Chelsea is more ready than us to win. They won last season the Champions League. 

"I think we have a lot of space for improvement, to be a team with an aspiration to win. Then for sure, we'll do everything to reach the final of this trophy.

"But I repeat: to use this verb or word 'to win' is more simple than winning because to win you have to build something important, be solid, have an important squad. Then you're ready to win."

 

Conte enjoyed a fruitful spell in charge of Chelsea, leading the Blues to the 2016-17 Premier League title in his first season at the helm before triumphing in the FA Cup the following season.

He then joined Inter, where he again won another league title as he ended the Nerazzurri's 10-year wait for the Scudetto, before returning to England to manage Spurs.

After numerous successes across varying countries and with numerous teams, Conte feels he has nothing to prove as he prepares to return to Stamford Bridge in the first leg of the semi-final on Wednesday.

"I have to thank Chelsea because they gave me the possibility to work in England and have my first experiences in England," he added. "Now, for sure, I'm the manager of Tottenham and I want to give this club 100 per cent and more to try to improve the team. 

"It'll be good and for sure I'll have emotion to come back to Stamford Bridge. We did a really good job and I think in my position I mustn't prove anything to anyone. 

"I'm a manager that has experience and continues to have experience in my career and do important jobs at other teams."

Liverpool forward Takumi Minamino has revealed he once broke a Guinness World Record after achieving the most high-fives in one minute.

As an 18-year-old, the Japan international conducted a total of 187 during his time at Cerezo Osaka, who had organised an event for the local community on January 14, 2014.

The unique record has since been surpassed by American Kaiser Permanente San Diego, who registered a total of 290 on April 21, 2016.

Nevertheless, it remains an achievement that Minamino remembers fondly.

"About 200 people queued up in a line in a shopping centre and, as I was the youngest player in the team, I was chosen to join them," he told Liverpool's official website.

"I had to run down the line and high-five them and I managed to make the Guinness World Records.

"It is a very good memory, and we still talk about it. Maybe, it would be good fun if I celebrated a goal for Liverpool like this!"

Minamino, who spent last season on loan at Southampton, had reason to celebrate on Wednesday as he helped Jurgen Klopp's side reach the EFL Cup semi-finals.

The forward netted a dramatic stoppage-time equaliser to salvage a 3-3 draw with Leicester City, before the Reds prevailed 5-4 on penalties at Anfield despite him missing his spot-kick.

The 26-year-old has been an ever-present for Liverpool in this season’s competition, and has embraced the chances to make valuable contributions to his side's cause.

"I have been given more game time in the Carabao Cup, which is a great opportunity for me," he added.

"It is a chance to show what I can do and to prove myself, and I am happy that I could contribute to the team's wins. I hope I can continue to do more of the same.

"I would like to contribute to this club as much as possible. That is the best thing I can do."

Jurgen Klopp is frustrated about the EFL Cup semi-finals being played over two legs after Liverpool set up a tie with Arsenal.

The Reds showed great character to come from two goals down to draw 3-3 at home with Leicester City in Wednesday's quarter-final contest, subsequently going on to win in the penalty shootout.

Diogo Jota scored off the bench in the second half and Takumi Minamino levelled with almost the last kick of the game – he would have sealed progression had he not missed his penalty, but Caoimhin Kelleher then denied Ryan Bertrand and the Reds' Portuguese forward got the job done.

The semi-final draw pits Liverpool against Arsenal in a double-header to be played during the first two weeks of 2022, and Klopp – who has routinely spoken out about player welfare this season – does not see why it cannot be played over 90 minutes.

"Yes, I think it would be better with one game, absolutely," Klopp told reporters afterwards.

"But obviously what I say is not too important, so if there are two games then we play two games.

"It would be helpful if it was only one, true."

On the wider issue of player welfare, Klopp revealed managers are due to take part in a Premier League meeting on Thursday afternoon.

However, he opted against going into too much detail for fear of creating headlines.

"The only thing I do with my messages is I create headlines. They never arrived at the right places," he said. "We have tomorrow at four o'clock a meeting, but it's with the Premier League – not with EFL, I am not sure if these people are involved or not.

"I don't speak about player welfare [just] this year, I speak about it for six years – or maybe longer. It's like it is.

"If the things I say would help more I would say them much more often, but it doesn't help – it would just now create another headline.

"I said it, I would prefer only one semi-final [leg]. The draw is we play at Arsenal, I am fine with that – [if it was a one-off game] we play there, see who is better and go for it, but I can't see any kind of changes actually."

In a separate interview, Klopp again railed against the Premier League for the packed nature of the Christmas schedule, with Liverpool set to play on Boxing Day and then on December 28.

"Boxing Day is a wonderful game, no one would want to cancel that, but 26th and then 28th is absolutely impossible, it's a joke that they still do it because it's no problem to play 26th and then 29th," he told ViaPlay.

"If 28th isn't a matchday, who cares? People have enough to do with seeing families or whatever. Play 26th and 29th, it's still the shortest of all possible breaks but it's fine. 26th and 28th is just not right. It's really dangerous for the players, it is."

Antonio Conte is looking forward to taking on former club Chelsea in the semi-finals of the EFL Cup but accepts he faces a big challenge in winning silverware with Tottenham.

Spurs battled to a 2-1 win over West Ham in Wednesday's quarter-final and will now face fellow London side Chelsea over two legs in early 2022.

Conte's men are through to the last four of the competition for a 17th time, a tally bettered only by Liverpool (18), who will take on Arsenal in the other semi-final tie.

It means a reunion with Chelsea for Conte three and a half years after ending a two-season stay at Stamford Bridge, during which time he won the Premier League and FA Cup.

But while his side are potentially just 180 minutes from a shot at redemption after last season's final defeat to Manchester City, Conte knows there is plenty of work to be done.

"It will be nice to play against Chelsea," Conte said. "I spent two amazing seasons there but now I'm the manager for Tottenham and I'm ready to give everything for this club. 

"But in England to lift a trophy is very, very difficult. We find Chelsea, then Liverpool or Arsenal. In England the level is very, very high."

Tottenham advanced to the semis thanks to goals from Steven Bergwijn and Lucas Moura, either side of Jarrod Bowen's temporary leveller in the space of five pulsating minutes.

The second half was a case of Spurs holding on to what they had, and the hosts survived a late scare when the lively Tomas Soucek's deflected cross hit the frame of the goal.

Spurs finished with an expected goals (xG) return of 1.2 compared to West Ham's 1.8, evidence of the Hammers posing greater threat in attack, with Conte putting his side's cautious second-half display down to fitness reasons.

"Their overall performance was good," he said. "I think we tried to control the game to begin with and then scored, before conceding an unfortunate equaliser.

"Then we scored again and I liked the way we moved the ball around. 

"In the second half we tried to manage the COVID situation. Many players who had COVID played today and the levels dropped. I had to make lots of substitutions.

"We have to manage this situation. This period is going to be very tough for us.

"I see the positive aspect for us. I'm giving the possibility to the players to play and show that they deserve to stay here at Tottenham."

One of those who made the most of a rare start on Wednesday was Netherlands international Bergwijn, who scored the opener and created Lucas' winning goal.

Bergwijn led the way for shots (four) and touches in the opposition box (eight) before being replaced on the hour mark, the Dutchman catching the eye with his attacking display.

"I've had two weeks with Steven to know very much what I want," Conte said at his post-match news conference.

"We had training sessions with only 11 or 12 players and on one hand it was very difficult but on the other we exploited the situation to improve the players.

"Now Steven is a player totally involved in what I want and what I ask of our players, because don't forget, I like to have a plan and give options to my players."

 

Conte has made clear that he aims to win a trophy during his time at Tottenham, whose last major success came in the 2007-08 EFL Cup.
 
Lucas, who has two goals in his last three appearances, feels Spurs are better placed to lift the trophy than they were last season.

"It meant a lot to win today," he told Sky Sports. "It was a big game, a derby. It's a competition we can win, so let's fight for this.

"We started very well, conceded a goal by our mistake but controlled the game in the first half. In the second half they tried to score but we were solid and suffered together.

"Last season we had the chance to get this trophy but in the final we didn't play very well. 

"Now is another opportunity, another season, another manager, another squad and I think we're better now.

"A trophy is my objective. I think we deserve it, but we need to show it on the pitch."

Romelu Lukaku and Callum Hudson-Odoi could be available for Chelsea's Premier League meeting with Aston Villa on Boxing Day following negative COVID-19 tests. 

Lukaku and Hudson-Odoi were among a group of seven players to miss last weekend's 0-0 Premier League draw with Wolves due to a positive coronavirus test. 

However, Tuchel confirmed the duo could be back in training on Thursday if they return a negative result for the second straight day. 

Ben Chilwell has also tested negative but will not be involved against Villa on Sunday as he continues to recover from a serious ankle injury. 

"If I understand correctly we a negative test first of all, and we had a negative test for Romelu and Callum and Ben Chilwell," said Tuchel following Chelsea's 2-0 EFL Cup quarter-final win against Brentford. 

"Ben Chilwell will not be involved in the Aston Villa game and for the other two they will be on the pitch tomorrow if they test negative again. Then we need to see. The guys have been ill and had symptoms. So let's see. 

"It's a Premier League game at one of the toughest places you can play. It's good news, don't get me wrong, but I'm not over-excited now because I need to check how they are." 

Chelsea's success over Brentford came following a late double, with Pontus Jansson putting through his own net and Jorginho – who made his comeback after a false COVID-19 positive – scoring a penalty in the final 10 minutes. 

The Blues had struggled to create meaningful chances before that and only remained on level terms thanks to some good saves from Kepa Arrizabalaga. 

Tuchel is pleased to have the world's most expensive goalkeeper performing at a high level with Edouard Mendy due to depart for the Africa Cup of Nations in January. 

"I am super impressed and very happy with Kepa. It is not a surprise anymore because he is in that state of mind as a person, a character and a sportsman where he just delivers for us because he does what he does best," said Tuchel. 

"This is what he shows every day in training and that's why he gets the reward. I am absolutely sure that this is the reason he has these kinds of performances.

"We need him in this shape. The goalkeepers are a strong group. Kepa is a big part of it and he was a big factor today – in the first half especially." 

Chelsea will go up against London rivals Tottenham and their former head coach Antonio Conte in a two-legged semi-final, with Arsenal and Liverpool contesting the other final-four tie. 

"It was always going to be a tough draw. Tottenham is nice for our fans. A London derby, we are looking forward to it and we want to be there," said Tuchel. 

"I am absolutely happy about this result [against Brentford]. We had a brilliant performance and result given the circumstances and the line-up and the situation of some of the guys that played today were youngsters and some of the others leading them hadn't had many minutes. 

"I'm very happy. Very disciplined, very structured, and in the structure with a lot of confidence and quality individually so well done for the boys, I'm supper happy." 

Chelsea will face last season's runners-up Tottenham in the semi-finals of the EFL Cup, while Liverpool have been drawn against Arsenal.

Thomas Tuchel's Chelsea beat Brentford 2-0 on Wednesday thanks to a Pontus Jansson own goal and a Jorginho penalty in the final 10 minutes.

The Blues now have a two-legged tie with former boss Antonio Conte's Tottenham to look forward to early in 2022 following their London rivals' 2-1 win against West Ham.

Liverpool's reward for their dramatic penalty shootout win against Leicester City – coming after battling back from two goals down to draw 3-3 late on – is a showdown with Arsenal.

The Gunners had far less trouble booking their place in the final four as they eased to a 5-1 win over third-tier Sunderland on Tuesday, with Eddie Nketiah netting a hat-trick.

The all-Premier League ties will take place in the first two weeks of 2022, with the final scheduled for February 27 at Wembley.

EFL Cup semi-final ties:

Arsenal v Liverpool

Chelsea v Tottenham

Liverpool are through to the EFL Cup semi-finals after edging Leicester City 5-4 in a penalty shootout having overturned a two-goal deficit in a gripping 3-3 draw.

Caoimhin Kelleher saved two Leicester penalties before Diogo Jota – a key figure off the bench – converted the crucial kick to send Jurgen Klopp's much-changed Reds through.

A Vardy brace had initially put the visitors 2-0 up early on at Anfield, and although Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain got Liverpool on the scoreboard, a spectacular Maddison strike had Leicester cruising at the break.

But half-time substitute Jota reduced the deficit again after the hour and Takumi Minamino equalised deep into stoppage time to force a shootout.

Minamino was the sole Red to miss his kick, but it mattered not as Kelleher denied Luke Thomas and Ryan Bertrand to allow Jota to wrap things up.

 

Tottenham edged past London rivals West Ham 2-1 to book their place in the semi-finals of the EFL Cup for a record-equalling 17th time.

West Ham eliminated Manchester United and holders Manchester City to reach this stage but came out second best in an entertaining tie at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Steven Bergwijn and Lucas Moura scored either side of Jarrod Bowen's equaliser in a frantic five-minute spell to give Spurs a slender lead at the midway stage.

Antonio Conte's side kept their opponents at arm's length in a quieter, albeit equally as tense, second half to remain on course for back-to-back finals in this competition.

West Ham shut out United and City in the previous two rounds but fell behind on Wednesday when Bergwijn exchanged passes with Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and finished from close range.

Hugo Lloris twice denied Tomas Soucek as West Ham produced a strong response that saw them level matters through Bowen, who showed great footwork to find space and pick out the far corner after Eric Dier had given away possession.

That was a deserved goal for the visitors, but they were behind once again two minutes later as Bergwijn dribbled through the opposition defence and squared the ball for Lucas to convert from six yards.

Without COVID-positive forward Michail Antonio, the Hammers were relying on Bowen to lead their attack and the versatile forward would have been in again if not for Lloris' quick instincts to come off his line.

Spurs introduced Son Heung-min to partner Harry Kane in an attempt to kill off the contest, but had to survive a scare at the other end when the lively Soucek's cross looped up and hit the top of the crossbar in the closing moments.

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