Thomas Tuchel does not expect Reece James to link up with the England squad next week, joking the defender will only be able to play water polo as he is still training in the swimming pool on his return from injury.

James was included in Gareth Southgate's 23-man squad on Thursday for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers with Andorra and Hungary, despite sustaining an ankle injury in the first half of the Blues' 1-0 defeat to Manchester City last week.

The 21-year-old subsequently sat out the Blues' 1-0 loss to Juventus in the Champions League in midweek and will play no part in Saturday's Premier League clash with Southampton.

Southgate called up James in the hope of using him in one of England's October fixtures, but Tuchel does not believe that will be possible.

"I was a bit surprised. I understand he was selected for the [England] football team but this will not happen," Tuchel said at a pre-match news conference on Friday. "My last information is he will not go. It can only be a misunderstanding.

"When I saw it, I thought maybe Reece goes with the water polo team for England as right now he trains only in the pool."

Southgate also called up fellow injured Chelsea player Mason Mount, who has sat out the Blues' last two matches, though Tuchel is more optimistic about the midfielder's chances of playing during international break.

"Mason is in the squad [to face Southampton], Mason is back. It was not a long injury, it was a minor injury. Obviously, a given he is nominated and he's happy to be and will give everything to do his best for the England squad."

While James and Mount were called up for England duty, Ben Chilwell was overlooked by Southgate due to a lack of playing time for Chelsea this season.

The former Leicester City player made just his third appearance of the campaign as a half-time substitute against Juventus and has yet to play a single minute in the league.

"It would have been nice for him to be selected," Tuchel said. "He has his own story. But I can understand and I'm sure that he knows he has to earn it. 

"He hasn't had had many minutes. Once he plays more for us he will have the chance to get selected [for England] again."

Chelsea welcome Southampton to Stamford Bridge seeking their first win over the Saints in four attempts in the league, with this their longest winless run in this fixture since between October 1990 and December 1993 (seven games).

Tuchel's men have lost back-to-back games in all competitions, having previously gone eight without defeat to begin the campaign, but the German coach is not reading too much into the quickfire losses to heavyweights City and Juve.

"We have not trained a lot. We used the days off instead for recovery," Tuchel said. "It's been business as usual. We always demand the very best no matter if we lose or win. 

"We hate to lose. We came back strong after losing two matches last season. We need to respect the quality of our opponents. 

"We missed a little step from 90 per cent to 100 per cent but we don't need to question ourselves deeply. We played two extremes. Now we play another high pressing team. 

"Losses don't feel good. Man City made us underperform. Now it gets tougher to play away games. We will not be the last team to lose against Juve."

Romelu Lukaku has scored nine times in 12 Premier League games against Southampton – only against West Ham has he scored as many – but he enters Saturday's clash without a goal in his last four matches for Chelsea.

The Belgium international has managed just two shots on target across those four fixtures but Tuchel feels it is down to other players in the Chelsea team to step up and help out the prolific striker. 

Tuchel said: "I think that football right now is about connection. I think he has this with Mount and [Mateo] Kovacic. Everyone else lacks it a little bit.

"We need to learn and adapt and create. There will always be matches like this against Juve where there is no place to go."

Romelu Lukaku needs more support from his team-mates at Chelsea, according to former France international David Trezeguet.

Lukaku made the move back to Stamford Bridge in August for a club-record £97.5 million fee from Inter, having scored 24 goals in 36 Serie A games during the Nerazzurri's title-winning 2020-21 campaign.

The Belgium forward has scored four times in eight games across all competitions for the Blues, including the winner against Zenit in their Champions League opener.

His header against the Russian Premier League outfit made him just the second player to score for two English clubs on debut in the competition but Lukaku fired a blank in the following 1-0 loss to Juventus on Wednesday.

Former Bianconeri star Trezeguet believes Lukaku needs more help from his Chelsea colleagues if Thomas Tuchel's side are to get the best out of the 28-year-old.

"Lukaku has proved to be competitive, but the world changes without [Antonio] Conte," Trezeguet told Italian outlet La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"Chelsea’s playing style is not as direct. I think he is a strong number nine, but he needs support from the team."

Federico Chiesa proved the thorn in Chelsea's side in their Group H clash, scoring the earliest second-half goal in the competition as he turned past Edouard Mendy just 10 seconds after the restart.

Operating up top for Massimiliano Allegri's team, Chiesa caused chaos and Trezeguet was impressed with the alternate option the Italy forward can provide Juventus.

"[He is] not a classic centre forward, that’s for sure," he continued.

"He loves spaces, he likes to start wide, he will never be a player like [Victor] Osimhen. For me, he is a winger or a support striker.

"Federico is having fun, even when he makes mistakes, he seems to have fun.

"He must learn how to manage himself during the game, move on the pitch and understand what his team-mates do. He'll get there."

Romelu Lukaku is being misused by Chelsea and the Blues could be the best team in Europe if they utilise him correctly, according to Antonio Conte. 

The Belgium star returned to Stamford Bridge for a club-record £97.5million fee from Inter in the close season, having scored 24 goals in 36 Serie A games during last term's title-winning campaign under Conte. 

The 28-year-old has managed four goals in seven outings in all competitions for the Blues, including the winner against Zenit in their Champions League opener. It made him only the second player to score for two English clubs on debut in the competition after Mario Balotelli. 

However, Conte believes Thomas Tuchel can get more out of his new signing to make Chelsea the best team in Europe. 

"He [Romelu Lukaku] is a very specific striker," Conte told Sky Sport Italia ahead of Chelsea's Champions League clash with Juventus on Wednesday. 

"Bringing Lukaku into the box, he is dangerous. However, when he starts from midfield, he is incredibly quick. It is very difficult to find a player who is a target man but can also run from midfield. 

"The good thing about Romelu is that he can hurt you anywhere. If you keep him far away from the penalty area, he can kill you with his pace. If you have him in the box, he has the physicality to be a target man. 

"Last season, they didn’t have a proper centre-forward, so they rotated positions, whereas Romelu is a real reference point in attack. If they can figure out how to use Lukaku, Chelsea can become the team to beat in the Champions League this season." 

Indeed, Lukaku has gone from strength to strength following his first goal for Chelsea against Arsenal in his 16th appearance for the club, nine years and 360 days after his initial debut. 

But Conte insists Lukaku, who last term became the only player in the past 15 Serie A seasons to have at least 20 goals and 10 assists in a single campaign, can offer more for Tuchel if the Blues utilise him correctly. 

"He is a generous, one who also gives you assists," Conte continued. "This is Lukaku's specific [talent], which I also see in [Erling] Haaland. 

"He still has room for technical improvement, but he has already reached very high levels. He can improve in some phases of the game, he needs to be switched on sometimes. 

"He is impressive, he is one of the most difficult forwards to face. He must always be played, but at Chelsea they have not quite understood how to use him." 

Giorgio Chiellini is urging Juventus not to focus all of their attention on Romelu Lukaku when they face Chelsea on Wednesday, also highlighting the qualities of Jorginho, who he is backing to win this year's Ballon d'Or.

Juve made a winning start to their Champions League campaign two weeks ago with a 3-0 victory over Malmo, though they will expect a rather trickier challenge as Chelsea visit Turin on matchday two.

The contest will see Chiellini renew hostilities with Lukaku, their pair having enjoyed some bruising tussles during the Belgian's time in Serie A with Inter.

But the Chelsea player Chiellini seems to hold in the highest regard is Jorginho, a player he featured alongside as Italy won Euro 2020 earlier this year.

That success coupled with Chelsea's Champions League win in 2020-21 saw Jorginho win the UEFA Men's Player of the Year award in August, and Chiellini believes he deserves to add the Ballon d'Or to his collection as well.

Asked about the prospect of going up against Lukaku again, Chiellini said: "Lukaku is a great player, we will have to be careful.

"It will be important not to allow the qualities of champions like Lukaku to come out. He's a great player, whom they paid a lot for. He's not there by chance, but maybe it's a bit diminishing to talk about just the meeting of me and Lukaku – it's not just Lukaku.

"Chelsea have many champions: let's think of our great friend Jorginho, who is the 'lighthouse' of this team.

"I truly hope he can win the Ballon d'or because he's a good friend of mine and it's also an award that would feel like it's mine as an Italian and a player who was involved in the [Euro 2020] win."

Jorginho has not always had it easy at Chelsea, with many critics sceptical of his suitability to the club and English football in general, but Chiellini believes the fact he has outlasted both Maurizio Sarri and Frank Lampard at Stamford Bridge is telling.

"I always thought he was a good player but after two or three sessions in the national team under [Roberto] Mancini, I realised just how good he is," Chiellini continued.

"What a top player he is. He maybe doesn't have great physical qualities, but the real difference is in his head, his mentality, and I was really happy because many said he could only play with Sarri.

"Instead, two other coaches arrived at Chelsea and then in the national team. Wherever he goes he plays as a regular, so I'm happy for him and he definitely deserves an award, so I truly hope he wins the Ballon d'Or."

Juve coach Massimiliano Allegri was questioned on the form of his own midfielders, specifically Adrien Rabiot.

The Frenchman has only impressed in spells since joining from Paris Saint-Germain two years ago and Allegri clearly wants more – though he is adamant Rabiot has the capacity to improve.

"It's similar to [Federico] Bernardeschi," Allegri said. "The difference among players is when they come to Juve – if a big club chooses them, there's obviously a reason, but the difference in their career depends on mentality, their specific objective in helping the team and the capacity to improve, being determined in training sessions, scoring, defending.

"These are the elements that make the difference. How many good, technical players haven't been able to explode in their careers because maybe there was something missing?

"Rabiot is a player, if I was him, I'd be very angry with myself because he's a player who's been here two years, how many goals he scored? Ten [six] in two seasons? That's not acceptable. He needs to improve in order to get much better and I'm pretty sure he'll be able to do that this year."

It was almost as though Thomas Tuchel was trolling Pep Guardiola, picking three defensive midfielders and two strikers. 

Guardiola had paid a high price for leaving his water carriers out of May's Champions League final battle between these teams. On Friday, he pointedly stressed he would not complain about his squad, yet also acknowledged City lacked a lethal finisher in the mould of a Romelu Lukaku. 

But this was a day when Guardiola resoundingly won the tactical battle, inflicting a first defeat of the season on Tuchel's Chelsea, ending City's sequence of three successive defeats to the men in royal blue. 

Chelsea had last enjoyed a longer run of wins against City when they strung eight together from December 2005 to March 2009, the balance of power in English football being very different in that period. 

Now City are champions of the Premier League and have been so five times in the last 10 seasons, and, A-list striker or no A-list striker, they might just pull it off again. 

Tuchel put an inordinate level of trust in the Lukaku and Timo Werner frontline combination working, as they began a game together for the first time. That smacked of cavalier coaching, an uncalled-for tactical shift in the biggest match of Chelsea's season so far, disrupting the system that last week delivered a ruthless 3-0 win at Tottenham. 

By sacrificing a midfield berth, Chelsea could not compete with City in that area, and duly the supply to Lukaku and Werner was hopelessly inadequate. 

And how did the Lukaku-Werner combination work out across the 90 minutes? Werner played one pass that found his new £97.5million team-mate, and Lukaku did not find the German with the ball at all. 

The midfields were silk and sandpaper, City with all the finesse and Chelsea the industry, but whereas City had a little snap too, with Rodri selected in the anchor role, Chelsea were woefully short of invention, utterly reliant on their full-backs pushing forward. They wanted to strong-arm their way to victory, and instead their limitations were laid bare. 

"Champions of Europe, we know what we are", sang the Chelsea fans at kick-off, followed by "Champions of Europe, you'll never sing that". 

Their songs soon fell flat. 

Guardiola left Rodri and Fernandinho out of his Champions League team, when at least one of them had played in 59 of City's 60 games up to that point of the 2020-21 season, and Chelsea got the better of a team lacking its usual steel. 

It was a decision that felt over-thought, Guardiola outwitting himself in his eagerness to surprise Chelsea. But Rodri was back here, helping to shield a defence that might have expected a busier afternoon. 

Of course N'Golo Kante started for Chelsea, after his starring role against City in that European showpiece, but did Chelsea really need both Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic alongside him, leaving Kai Havertz, goal hero of the May final in Porto, and Hakim Ziyech on the bench? No ship requires three active anchors, and their inclusion suggested Tuchel had gone overboard. 

Chelsea had just 33.3 per cent of first-half possession, and that figure was bolstered by them seeing more of the ball in the final 10 minutes, having been under 30 per cent until then. 

City had six shots to Chelsea's one by the break, and the visitors were winning 56.3 per cent of the duels, Rodri finding his man with 41 of 42 passes by the break, also winning possession seven times, more than anyone. 

Come full-time, City led 15-5 on shots, 4-0 on shots on target, Rodri had completed 74 of his 78 passes (94.9 per cent) and finished with a team-high 10 possession wins. His presence was colossal, allowing the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Jack Grealish and Phil Foden to rampage. 

Guardiola said City would "do it as a group" as they aim to come up with the goals a world-class striker might score. He missed out on Harry Kane and Cristiano Ronaldo, but in Gabriel Jesus he has a Brazil international who might just fancy showing his boss he can be a 20-goal hitman again. 

Chelsea were undone in the 53rd minute when Joao Cancelo's shot after a short-corner move only ran as far as Jesus, who turned sharply and fired, with the help of a deflection of Jorginho, into the bottom left corner. 

That was the first shot to hit the target in the match, Opta said, and there was almost a second City goal moments later when Grealish sidestepped Cesar Azpilicueta on the left and curled towards the far post, with Edouard Mendy's fingertips pushing the ball wide for a corner. 

Thiago Silva cleared off the line from Jesus, then Mendy denied Grealish late on as City pushed for the second goal they surely deserved. 

Chelsea had just 39.62 per cent of possession in the Champions League final but dominated the chances there, with an expected goals (xG) total of 1.45 to City's 0.45 reflecting their greater threat in the final third. 

Here, it was City with 1.45 xG against Chelsea's paltry 0.2, Guardiola getting one over the team who have given him plenty of anguish over the years, inflicting eight defeats, more than any other against a Pep side. 

Guardiola's players celebrated with their fans, who included Oasis' Noel Gallagher, tossing shirts into the crowd, knowing this time they and their coach had implemented a master plan. 

Thomas Tuchel has partnered Timo Werner and Romelu Lukaku in the Chelsea attack from the start for the first time for the visit of Manchester City, who have a number of stars back fit.

Chelsea head into Saturday's Premier League clash at Stamford Bridge top of the table, three points ahead of champions City.

The Blues have beaten City in all three meetings since Tuchel took charge – including the Champions League final – and are looking to become the first side to defeat Pep Guardiola in four consecutive matches.

But Tuchel has mixed things up for this game, shifting from his usual 3-4-3 to a 3-5-2 formation, including N'Golo Kante, Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic in central midfield after the trio excelled in the second half of last week's 3-0 win at Tottenham.

Most notably, that switch has created space for Werner in the front line next to record signing Lukaku.

Werner assisted Antonio Rudiger's strike at Spurs and then scored in the midweek EFL Cup tie against Aston Villa, as he aims to build on a disappointing 2020-21 campaign in which his 12 goals hugely underperformed his 21.1 expected goals.

The Germany forward and Lukaku have only previously played 61 minutes together so far in all competitions, although Chelsea have netted two goals and conceded none in that time.

Thiago Silva – outstanding at Tottenham – only made Tuchel's bench, but Edouard Mendy was passed fit to start in goal, facing an attack-minded City line-up.

Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden each came in for their first league starts of the season, yet it was Gabriel Jesus – playing from the right in the early stages of the campaign – who looked set to lead the line.

Guardiola had named a different midfield for all three prior meetings with Tuchel's Chelsea in 2021 but has reverted back to Rodri, who started the league defeat.

In a familiar 4-3-3, Aymeric Laporte was also cleared to line up alongside Ruben Dias.

Romelu Lukaku believes taking the knee could be losing its effectiveness in football's fight against racism as he called on social media companies to do more to combat online abuse.

Chelsea full-back Marcos Alonso recently revealed he would no longer be taking the knee before matches, with the Spain international saying the gesture is "losing a bit of strength".

Players in Premier League teams have been taking the knee before games since matches resumed in June 2020 following the United Kingdom's first coronavirus-enforced lockdown, after the unlawful police killing of George Floyd, a black man, in Minneapolis the previous month had sparked protests against racial injustice across the globe.

Some players, such as Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha, have since elected not to take the knee, though the majority of teams and players in the top flight still do so.

However, Lukaku - who was the subject of racist abuse during his time with Inter in Serie A - has now joined his team-mate Alonso in doubting the strength of the gesture.

The striker told CNN: "I think we can take stronger positions, basically. Yes, we are taking the knee, but in the end, everybody’s clapping but, sometimes after the game, you see another insult."

Lukaku added that social media executives must take the lead in tackling online hate.

"The captains of every team, and four or five players, like the big personalities of every team, should have a meeting with the CEOs of Instagram and governments and the FA and the PFA, and we should just sit around the table and have a big meeting about it," Lukaku said.

"I have to fight, because I'm not fighting only for myself. I'm fighting for my son, for my future kids, for my brother, for all of the other players and their kids, you know, for everybody.

"At the end of the day, football should be an enjoyable game. You cannot kill the game by discrimination. That should never happen."

Nuno Espirito Santo insisted he was only interested in "amazing" Harry Kane when the Tottenham boss was asked to compare his star striker to Romelu Lukaku.

Lukaku has made a flying start to life back at Chelsea, who Spurs face on Sunday, with the Belgium international scoring four goals in as many games.

Kane, meanwhile, had a stuttering start to the season after a move to Manchester City failed to materalise.

The England captain has managed just two shots in his first three Premier League appearances this season and his lean spell continued as he failed to score against Rennes in the Europa Conference League on Thursday.

The last time Kane had two or fewer attempts across a three-match span in the Premier League was back in October 2014, but he did not start any of those outings against Sunderland, Southampton and Newcastle United, which produced a total of one effort at goal.

Lukaku, on the other hand, has scored three times from 12 shots for Chelsea in the top flight this term, registering an attempt every 8.5 touches and a goal every 34 touches.

Asked to compare the two forwards, and if he would swap Lukaku for Kane, Nuno told a news conference: "Harry's an amazing player.

"I only speak about Tottenham players. I don't even consider [swapping Kane and Lukaku] because it's something I don't think about, for me it doesn't make sense."

Asked what Kane needs to work on to get back to the form that saw him win the Premier League Golden Boot last season, Nuno added: "I think he has to improve, we are on this process to find the best levels of fitness, but his dedication has been huge."

Spurs will be hoping Kane's early season slump came to its nadir last Saturday, in the 3-0 defeat to Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park.

For the first time in his Premier League career, Kane went a full game without having an attempt on goal or a single touch in the opponent's area, while he had just 37 touches – fewer than any other Tottenham outfielder who played the full game – and lost possession 16 times without recovering it once.

Nuno may need Kane on top form against a Chelsea team who look well set to challenge on all fronts this season.

The European champions are unbeaten in five games across all competitions, taking 10 points in the league – one more than Spurs – and getting their Champions League title defence off to a winning start against Zenit, with Lukaku on target in that victory.

"Very good team, and Thomas [Tuchel] is doing an amazing job," said Nuno.

"They have an amazing squad, talented players, they play good football, they are organised, they are intense. They are European champions, so we must be wary of that. But on Sunday we will compete, that's a promise.

"Thomas already did an amazing job at Borussia Dortmund, a fantastic job at Paris Saint-Germain. He and his coaching staff have enormous quality so I'm not surprised by the work of Thomas. For me it is not a surprise because you can see how well they play."

Slow starts are nothing new to Harry Kane. Not until 2018 did the England captain score a Premier League goal in the month of August, by which point he had twice won the Golden Boot.

But there is added focus on Kane this year in the aftermath of his failed move from Tottenham to Manchester City.

And through three appearances – including two starts – in the opening four games of the 2021-22 campaign, the striker has attempted just two shots without scoring.

The last time Kane had two or fewer attempts across a three-match span in the Premier League was back in October 2014, but he did not start any of those outings against Sunderland, Southampton and Newcastle United, which produced a sole effort combined.

Since establishing himself as one of Europe's elite forwards, Kane has not endured such a lean league spell.

Chelsea, against whom Kane has scored just once in his past eight Premier League encounters, are up next, with a more effective display clearly required from Tottenham's talisman.

Nuno not helping

Nuno Espirito Santo oversaw three straight wins to start the league season, but Kane is not alone in suffering from the new coach's safety-first approach.

Spurs are averaging 9.5 shots per game this term, their lowest rate in a season since at least 2003-04, while only Watford (2.3) and Leicester City (3.4) have a lower expected goals total (3.7).

Tottenham also now have the sixth-lowest average possession in the division at 43.1 per cent.

Although this more conservative set-up has been in place for a little while now – Spurs last season started their sequences 39.7 metres from their own goal and have this term jumped slightly forward to 41.4m – it has only become more entrenched under Nuno.

A far cry from Mauricio Pochettino's pressing team, in which Kane thrived, Tottenham have had just 41 pressed sequences (fourth fewest) and 24 high turnovers (joint-fifth fewest) in 2021-22 so far and prefer instead to play on the counter, moving the ball 1.72 metres upfield per second (joint-third fastest).

This suits speedy fellow forwards Steven Bergwijn, Son Heung-min and Lucas Moura far better than it does Kane, who is neither notably quick nor regularly carrying the ball – 7.3 carries per 90 minutes this season rank him ninth among the 11 Spurs outfielders to feature in 100 or more minutes.

With Tottenham relying on these rapid attacks, rather than patiently playing through the thirds and allowing Kane to get into dangerous positions, the 28-year-old has made only eight touches in the opposition box.

Deeper and deeper

Of course, as shown previously for Spurs and England, Kane can be effective in dropping deeper and picking out the runs of those faster team-mates.

And it's not as if Kane has not still been involved in Tottenham's play, having a role in 31.4 open play sequences per 90 – just shy of last year's rate of 31.8, which had leapt up from 25.7.

But just 3.2 of these sequences per 90 are ending in a shot, while Kane has not been involved in any open play sequences leading to a goal this term – a metric he unsurprisingly led (36) in 2020-21 when he topped the charts for Premier League goals and assists.

Kane is still creating chances – his four so far this season arriving every 49.5 minutes or every 22.8 touches – but Spurs would surely sooner have their main man on the end of such opportunities.

Having peaked with a shot every 16.8 minutes or every 6.9 touches in 2017-18, Kane's early-season form has seen an attempt every 99 minutes or every 45.5 touches.

Given he attempted 61.3 per cent of his shots last season from inside the box, despite renowned ability from long range, this primitive decline should come as no surprise.

Just 8.8 per cent of Kane's touches have been taken in the opposition box. That career-low mark continues a downward trend into a fifth straight season, but it may now have reached a point where it is harmful to his chances of scoring.

Since Yaya Toure's sublime 2013-14 season from midfield, every Premier League player to notch 20 goals in a season has taken at least 10 per cent of their touches in the opposition box.

Few would write off Kane's chances of a sixth career 20-goal campaign at this stage, but he should expect competition for his Golden Boot from Sunday's opponent Romelu Lukaku.

A picture of efficiency, Lukaku has scored three times from 12 shots for Chelsea this term, registering an attempt every 8.5 touches and a goal every 34 touches.

If Tottenham are to be successful this season, they need Kane to be hitting similar marks.

Whether that means a tweak to his role or a change in the entire system, something has to shift, for Lukaku could very easily show Nuno just what he is missing.

Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel lauded "world class" Romelu Lukaku and praised the star's off-field impact after leading the Champions League holders past Zenit 1-0.

Lukaku was the difference on Tuesday, scoring his first Champions League goal for Chelsea, who opened their title defence with a hard-fought victory at Stamford Bridge.

After scoring a brace against Aston Villa in the Premier League on Saturday, club-record signing Lukaku backed that up with a towering 69th-minute header against the Russian champions in Group H.

Lukaku has scored four goals since arriving from Serie A champions Inter and Tuchel hailed the in-form Belgium international.

"The performance of Romelu was not easy. We didn't create many chances for him, we did not create many deliveries. But he's the type of guy who doesn't lose confidence and belief. And that is why he is here and makes him a world-class striker," Tuchel said during his post-match news conference.

"You don't find many strikers of that quality and the guys who are there to score regularly for their teams are so, so important. There are not many goals in football and goals change the momentum of the match. It gives the whole team a lot of belief that maybe one half chance, one chance is enough for him to score.

"It's not the only talent he brings, he brings belief, he himself has the belief and he takes the pressure off the shoulders of other guys around him. He has the personality not to be impatient or lose confidence. He does what he does at a very high level and we are very happy he’s with us. There are a lot of reasons we are maybe not at our top level at the moment. But right now with pre-season, new guys coming in, international breaks, and so on, I am happy with how we play and find us very competitive. We know how to handle difficulties during matches and today I liked what I have seen on the sideline because I felt the energy and the effort.

" They are a strong opponent and we have accepted and respect that. It was a tough [Aston] Villa team at the weekend and a tough Zenit team today. They changed their line-ups, their mentality when they arrived when they played us, we need to adapt and find solutions. This is what we do at the moment."

Only Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski (22), Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland (20) and Manchester United attacker Bruno Fernandes (17) have scored more goals than Lukaku (14) in major European competition since the start of 2019-20.

Lukaku's 14 Champions League goals have come in his last 14 appearances.

Tuchel added: "He was the type of guy we were missing in our team, the profile, but not only for the talent but also for his personality. The guy is a super humble guy, loves football, loves to train, is such a good communicator in the dressing room, and is open to everybody. That creates a certain atmosphere and energy around him within the team that we are proud of and what we want to have because we believe in it.

"The atmosphere and the spirit last year took us very far and it's important we have it again. We have it with Romelu because he loves Chelsea, he knows Chelsea, he knows what this club is all about. As I said, he is not shy to speak out loud that he’s here and to help with his goals. If we miss him for one game, or hopefully not more games, we will try to find different solutions, maybe the style will be different in how we create chances.

"But now we have him and we are very pleased that he can show these things because he gives us belief and everybody around him a lot of confidence. It is the best start for strikers to score, to be decisive. There is no talk, no video of any coach in the world that can have the same impact."

"It feels really good," Lukaku told BT Sport. "I'm really happy with the win. We kept the game under control. We have to keep growing. I think today was a better performance than on the weekend. I'm really happy with the win and really happy with the goal."

Romelu Lukaku's winner showed why Chelsea signed him, according to Thomas Tuchel after his side defeated Zenit 1-0 in their Champions League opener.

Lukaku's first European goal for the Blues proved the difference as they made it 12 group-stage games without defeat on Tuesday.

The Belgium forward now has four goals in three games against Russian opponents and only Robert Lewandowski, Erling Haaland and Bruno Fernandes have scored more than Lukaku's 14 European goals since the start of 2019-20 when he signed for Inter.

Tuchel splashed a club-record fee on the former Manchester United striker but he insisted that performances like this outing justify the transfer.

"It was an excellent header [from Lukaku for the goal], a well-timed cross by [Cesar] Azpilicueta," Tuchel told BT Sport post-match.

"He was brave enough to step up and we had bodies in the box. That's why he [Lukaku] is here. He likes to score and he's decisive for us."

In the history of the competition, only on two out of 28 occasions have the reigning champions lost the opener and no title defender has ever been beaten at home in their first group-stage tie.

Only Manchester City (11) have won more Champions League matches than Chelsea (10) since the start of last season and Tuchel was happy with his side's start to Group H.

"We had to be at our top level," the head coach continued. "I am happy because we had to work a lot. It was not easy. It's tough to perform consistently at that level.

"We expected a tough game because it's the highest competition in Europe and it's the Russian champions. It took us a while to make them tired but I liked what I saw.

"Winning is good for our belief. We are not finished but we are in a good place to improve.

"The first step is done. But there are five more matches to go [in the group stage]."

Romelu Lukaku scored his first Champions League goal for Chelsea as the holders started their title defence with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Zenit.

In Champions League history, the trophy holders have only lost their first game of the subsequent campaign on two of 27 previous occasions. Although Chelsea limited Zenit to little going the other way in this tussle, it looked as though Thomas Tuchel's side would be frustrated at Stamford Bridge.

Yet club-record signing Lukaku followed up his double against Aston Villa with a towering 69th-minute header to get the Blues up and running in Group H.

It proved decisive, but Zenit should have levelled – substitute Artem Dzyuba unable to convert from five yards out as Chelsea's profligacy went unpunished.

Despite a dominant start, Chelsea were caught cold defensively in the 12th minute, with Reece James just managing to block Claudinho's path to goal.

The trend continued, Chelsea prodding and probing without any sign of a breakthrough, Yaroslav Rakitskiy's tame 38th-minute effort marking the only attempt on target in the first half, before Lukaku headed James' cross over.

It took defender Antonio Rudiger to spark the crowd into life with a charging 50-yard run, the Germany international sending his shot just wide from the edge of the area.

Rudiger made a vital intervention at the other end, timing a challenge on Sardar Azmoun – who was heading through on goal – to perfection.

Chelsea made Rudiger's work count, Cesar Azpilicueta floating in a cross that Lukaku directed powerfully into the left corner.

Marcos Alonso drilled wide as Chelsea looked for a second, though parity should have been restored moments later.

Azmoun squared to his strike partner Dzyuba, only for the Russia forward to slice wide on the slide and let Chelsea off the hook.

It just had to be, did it not? Cristiano Ronaldo, back at Old Trafford, of course he would get on the scoresheet.

Ronaldo netted not once, but twice in United's 4-1 defeat of Newcastle United on Saturday, announcing his return to the Premier League in style.

Meanwhile, a player who has established himself as one of the possible heirs to the Ronaldo (and Lionel Messi) throne at the pinnacle of the game reached a century of goals in the competition.

And after their worst start in generations, Arsenal finally found a way to win.

Here are some of the more curious Opta facts from the latest round of games.


Age is just a number for evergreen Ronaldo

Aged 36 year and 218 days, Ronaldo became the oldest player to score a Premier League double in over a decade.

The last player of more advancing years to do so? Well, another of the league's greats, of course. That being Graham Alexander of Burnley, who scored twice in a match against Hull City in April 2010 at the age of 38 years and 182 days. 

On the same day as Alexander was leading Burnley to a 4-1 win over the Tigers, Ronaldo played his second LaLiga Clasico. Real Madrid lost 2-0, following on from Barcelona's 5-0 victory earlier in the season.

Back to Old Trafford on Saturday, where Newcastle's dismal run continued. They have only managed one win at the Theatre of Dreams in their last 27 league attempts, while Steve Bruce, a former United stalwart, has lost 12 of his 13 games at his old stomping ground as a visiting manager, with his teams scoring just six goals over that run.

Ronaldo's gap of 12 years and 124 days between goals is the second-longest between two strikes by the same player in Premier League history, after Matt Jackson, who went 13 years and 187 days in between netting for Everton and Wigan Athletic respectively.

The Portugal superstar also broke Damien Delaney's record (11y 155d) for the biggest gap between Premier League appearances, with Ronaldo turning out for Manchester United again 12 years and 118 days since his previous game in May 2009.

Paul Pogba stands out on his own at the top of the assist charts with seven to his name already. He is the only player to have recorded as many as 10 assists in the Premier League in 2021, while his tally across the opening four games is the most any player has registered in the first four games of a Premier League season.

Mo moves into the 100 club

Liverpool's 3-0 win over Leeds United was somewhat marred by a horrid injury for Harvey Elliott. But the Reds were nevertheless convincing winners, with Mohamed Salah opening the scoring with his 100th Premier League goal.

Salah has reached his century in 162 games, with only four players getting there quicker. His team also moved onto a century in terms of attempts on goal across their four league games so far this season.

Their tally of 30 shots was quite remarkable, though Jurgen Klopp will want an improvement on the 10 per cent conversion rate. 

Sadio Mane had a game-leading 10 shots, yet only two of those hit the target – the Senegal star finally scoring in second-half stoppage time. It was the most attempts he has ever had in a Premier League game, and more than any other player has managed in any match so far this season (Romelu Lukaku having had eight for Chelsea against Arsenal last month).

Villa left reeling by Rom yet again

There must have been a collective sigh of relief around Villa Park when, as Aston Villa were preparing for life back in the top flight, Lukaku left the Premier League to join Serie A giants Inter.

But now the Belgian has returned to England and, as he has a knack of doing, back to finding the net against the poor old Villans.

He scored twice in Chelsea's 3-0 win on Saturday, his first goals at Stamford Bridge for any team, in what was his 15th appearance at the ground.

Lukaku has now scored in each of his last six Premier League appearances against Villa (eight goals) – only against West Ham has he had a longer run of scoring in consecutive games against a specific opponent in the competition (seven, between 2013 and 2016).

Arteta finally gets off the ground

The pressure might well have been too much had bottom-of-the-pile Arsenal failed to beat Norwich City on Saturday, but fortunately for Mikel Arteta, his Gunners side came up with the goods.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang sealed a 1-0 win in a match that saw Arsenal have 30 attempts, the most they have had in a league game since producing 33 against Manchester United in December 2017.

Remarkably, with Liverpool also having 30 shots against Leeds, the record from last season (29, set by Manchester City against Leeds in April) has already been surpassed twice.

This is Norwich's worst ever start to a league campaign after four games (zero points, -10 goal difference) and just the third time they have started a season with four league defeats.

Aaron Ramsdale, meanwhile, became the first English goalkeeper to make a Premier League appearance for Arsenal since David Seaman way back in May 2003.

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel "couldn’t care less" if Romelu Lukaku scores ore goals than Cristiano Ronaldo this season after both new signings netted Premier League doubles.

Lukaku, who joined Chelsea from Internazionale last month, scored the first and third goals in the Blues' 3-0 win over Aston Villa on Saturday.

Meanwhile Ronaldo starred in his second debut for Manchester United, netting a brace as they won 4-1 over Newcastle prompting comparisons between the pair.

"I couldn't care less as long as Lukaku scores for us," Tuchel said when asked who he thinks will score more this season during the post-match news conference.

"Honestly, I know you'd like to have a good answer but unfortunately, I don't have one. Lukaku was decisive for us today and that is what we are looking for.

"He wants to score for Chelsea, help the team with his goals, that is what he did today.

"That is why he is here. He is not shy to speak this ambition out loud because he is full of confidence and is the kind of personality that can handle it. This is what he showed in the first games and today."

Another new Chelsea signing Saul Niguez made his club debut, starting but being replaced at half-time after an underwhelming display.

Tuchel admitted the Spanish midfielder "struggled" but put the blame on himself rather than the player who joined on loan from Atletico Madrid on deadline day.

"He struggled. I take the responsibility for that," Tuchel said.

"I put him into a difficult match after a national break. It was hard for him to adapt to the physicality, and to the intensity and high pressing of Aston Villa. It was also a bit hard for him to adapt to our system and our principles.

"We thought to give a bit more stability to the centre to switch the shape to a 5-3-2 in the second half with Jorginho.

"It was a tough one, but I hope he accepts it is my responsibility. In training it looked like he had no problem to adapt, but it was training.

"The game was very intense today, he had some easy ball losses so that’s why I thought before he loses more confidence I would take him off."

Romelu Lukaku finally scored at Stamford Bridge and declared it a "childhood dream" fulfilled as his double sank Aston Villa.

Chelsea scored a battling 3-0 win over a Villa side who gave as good as they got in the first half, with Blues boss Thomas Tuchel admitting they had him worried.

It was Lukaku's lethal finishing that proved key, though, as he slotted a clinical opener and smashed in a clincher in second-half stoppage time.

Those were his only two shots of the game, as Chelsea secured their 600th Premier League win. Manchester United were previously the only team in the league's history to reach that tally.

Chelsea's other goal came from Mateo Kovacic, who pounced on a short backpass from Tyrone Mings to clip in a classy finish early in the second half, taking some of the sting out of Villa.

This was Lukaku's 15th game at Stamford Bridge, spread across appearances representing Chelsea, Everton and Manchester United, and it was the first time he got on the scoresheet.

"I've waited. It's been my dream since I was 11. I've worked hard for this moment," Lukaku said. "It's a childhood dream for me. I'm very happy to be in this situation, but the work has to keep going."

The £97.5million signing from Inter has made a stunning start to his second spell at Chelsea, having barely made an impact on the first team in his previous stint.

Lukaku's opening goal saw him show quick feet to get past Axel Tuanzebe before finishing in style, and the second was a shot into the top-left corner from just inside the penalty area.

"Playing in Italy, I was playing in a league where I would have one or two chances in a game and I had to take them," Lukaku said on Sky Sports, explaining his precision.

"With the experience and the hard work and my team-mates understanding me, I'm very happy with the situation I'm in."

Lukaku was a team-mate of Tuanzebe at United and explained that gave him the knowhow when it came to stepping inside the defender's challenge and offloading a shot with his right foot.

"I've played with Tuanzebe back in the day and he knows I'm left-footed," Lukaku said.

The 28-year-old's delightful second was a satisfying way to cap Chelsea's day.

"The contact was good. I hit it cleanly and the touch was good," Lukaku said. "I got it out of my feet quickly. That's just work, a lot of finishing day-in and day-out. That's just pure training."

Tuchel was concerned by Villa's sharp performance before the interval, but he said Chelsea were "more controlled, more fluid" in the second half. He felt others could have done better with chances for the hosts but had no complaints about Lukaku.

"He is full of confidence and totally aware of what he's going to do, what he wants to do," Tuchel said. "He is absolutely confident to score and that helped us a lot."

Tuchel fielded new recruit Saul Niguez in his starting XI but substituted the Spanish midfielder at half-time.

The addition from Atletico Madrid struggled to get to grips with the high-tempo game on his debut, winning just one of nine duels and giving away a team-high three fouls.

"Saul had a bit of trouble to adapting to the intensity and our structure and style of play and the intensity of the Premier League," Tuchel said.

The Chelsea boss said making the change and bringing on Jorginho in Saul's place was "hard to do", but pointed out: "He had some big mistakes, passing mistakes and errors. You could see he was not fully adapted."

Tuchel insisted the 45-minute outing for Saul could be brushed aside, declaring it his own responsibility that the selection did not work out.

"I'm happy because we escaped with a perfect result on a perfect evening for our striker," Tuchel added.

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