Tuchel: Lukaku ‘very close’ to return

Romelu Lukaku will not feature in Chelsea’s Premier League trip to Leicester on Saturday but is “very close” to returning from injury, according to head coach Thomas Tuchel.

Saturday will mark a full month since the striker injured his ankle during a Champions League game against Malmo, in what was his 11th appearance of the season after re-joining Chelsea in a club-record £97.5m deal over the summer.

Tuchel said Lukaku could return for Tuesday’s Champions League clash with Juventus or next weekend’s Premier League meeting with Manchester United, which is live on Sky Sports.

“Romelu is very close to team training, so hopefully he will join the squad on Sunday – let’s see how this works out,” Tuchel said on Friday.

Romelu Lukaku was substituted after several minutes of treatment before half-time and disappeared straight down the tunnel in Chelsea's win over Malmo

Lukaku was injured against Malmo in October

“He’s pushing hard and trying hard to come back as soon as possible and we will try on Sunday.

“If everything works out perfectly, if he is in training on Sunday and then on Monday he can maybe join the group on the bench (against Juventus).

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    “But there are a lot of ifs and I don’t want to put pressure on him. He’s putting a lot of pressure on himself and we will not rush things.”

    Chelsea initially coped well with Lukaku’s absence, delivering emphatic victories over Norwich and Newcastle, but a draw at home to Burnley in their final game before the international break highlighted the striker’s absence.

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    FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the 1-1 draw between Chelsea and Burnley.

    No plans to end Gallagher loan early

    Tuchel says he has no plans to end Conor Gallagher’s season-long loan at Crystal Palace early, despite the Chelsea midfielder’s impressive performances having earned him a senior England debut during the international break.

    “I have not thought about bringing him back earlier because I think it’s also important for him to be happy where he is and for him to stay in the moment and not change things,” Tuchel said.

    Conor Gallagher made his senior England debut in Monday's 10-0 victory over San Marino (PA)

    Conor Gallagher made his senior England debut in Monday’s 10-0 victory over San Marino

    “Right now if you ask me today, I don’t think it’s necessary to change everything for him again in winter, and I’m super happy for him personally because he is a guy who absolutely deserves the very best.”

    Gallagher was promoted from England’s U21s amid a spate of injury withdrawals from Gareth Southgate’s squad and got his first cap in Monday’s 10-0 victory over San Marino.

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    Highlights of the World Cup Group I qualifier between San Marino and England

    The 21-year-old has flourished under Patrick Vieira at Selhurst Park this season, scoring four goals and providing two assists for Palace.

    “I’m not surprised that the national coach loves him because I loved him from day one,” Tuchel added. “There cannot be a coach who does not love guys like this – humble, nice, smile on the face and all the time ready to give their everything.

    “It’s a pleasure to know the guy, have the guy and I’m super happy for him that things worked out so well and now it’s on him to keep on going, keep the feet on the ground, and the rest we will decide not in a rush.”