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Lukaku offers promising glimpse of real Chelsea after Blues threaten to miss

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Lukaku offers promising glimpse of real Chelsea after Blues threaten to miss

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Chelsea are expected to be much better for Romelu Lukaku’s return – and the £ 97.5million forward is set to benefit endlessly from his decisive contribution from the Aston Villa bench on Boxing Day.

It was a game that risked turning into another bad day for Chelsea, who entered the pitch knowing Manchester City had opened up a nine-point lead over them at the top of the table. Even if it wasn’t a must win yet, more points lost would have cast serious doubt on their ability to mount a serious title challenge in the New Year.

Taking advantage of an own goal from Reece James in the first half, they needed another penalty from Jorginho to even the score before the break. But they looked far from convincing at Villa Park, with the home side repeatedly stretching them from the back and reducing them to that one free kick with a shot on target.

With Christian Pulisic running like a fake No9 and Callum Hudson-Odoi and Mason Mount struggling to provide meaningful serve, Chelsea were literally useless up front.

Tuchel sent for Lukaku and he showed precisely what they have been missing since his ankle injury in October. He may have been available last month – but he was far from being in peak physical shape, while a bout of Covid also delayed his progress.

The Belgian was signed as the missing piece of Chelsea’s puzzle – and he watched it from the moment he stepped onto the pitch, replacing Trevoh Chalobah, who had been repeatedly exposed in the first 45 minutes.

Suddenly Chelsea had something to aim for and suddenly the quality of their ball improved as a result.

Moments after the rebound he had collided with Emi Martinez and Tyrone Mings as he stood up to meet a cross.

If this was an example of the physical threat Villa suddenly faced, his goal demonstrated his prowess in the box, both in terms of movement and finishing.

Anticipating Callum Hudson-Odoi’s cross from the left, he dropped Mings six yards, before a sudden acceleration saw him rush past the England defender and aim his header into the far corner.

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