Chelsea players back Tuchel after Lukaku row - but manager and striker now need to put sideshow behi
The Blues risked being distracted by the high-profile spat around their club-record signing, but they performed well on Sunday against Liverpool
Chelsea's crucial Premier League showdown with Liverpool was completely overshadowed by record signing Romelu Lukaku being dropped from the home side's squad for Sunday's game.
The match felt like a sideshow to a gripping off-field drama, with Thomas Tuchel removing Lukaku from the squad after he criticised his manager's tactics in an unsanctioned interview on Italian TV.
The 28-year-old was sent home from the team hotel the night before the game after having his absence confirmed and didn't appear among the injured players who sat behind Chelsea's substitutes ahead of kick-off.
"The thing got too big, the thing got too noisy so close to the match, so I decided to protect the preparation of the match, and that's why he's out," Tuchel explained to Sky Sports: "
Yet as the first whistle blew, it became about the football again and Liverpool exposed a club on the verge of full-blown crisis.
Chelsea's supporters were allowed to stand for the first time since 1994 - as part of a safe standing pilot scheme - and the crowd expressed their allegiance shortly after the match started.
"We've got super Tommy Tuchel, he knows exactly what we need," rang out from the Matthew Harding End.
Ultimately it had little effect, with Sadio Mane exploiting a mistake by Trevoh Chalobah to open the scoring.
Following that strike, Mohamed Salah delivered his clutch moment, exposing a mix-up in defence between Marcos Alonso and Antonio Rudiger to make it 2-0.
Chelsea looked dead and buried but Mateo Kovacic's stunning edge-of-the-box volley and Christian Pulisic's lofted finish brought the Blues in level at half-time.
There were just 245 seconds between the two goals, propelling Chelsea back out of their torpor.
Although there remain problems in west London, Tuchel can field a team of stars who are willing to fight for him. N'Golo Kante, Kovacic and Mason Mount gave everything to try and push their team over the line.
In truth either team could have won a chaotic and entertaining second half, but ultimately a draw only serves the interests of league leaders Manchester City.
In a broad sense, the match was a success for Chelsea. It showed that Tuchel will not let forces outside his control spin this club into crisis.
He reprimanded a £97.5 million ($136m) signing while avoiding defeat to one of the best teams in the world.
What happens next is up to the protagonists involved. A leaked text message exchange between Lukaku and his former Everton team-mate Tim Howard revealed that there will be talks today between the manager and player to further resolve a tense situation.
All being well from that Monday meeting, Lukaku could return to face Tottenham in the midweek Carabao Cup semi-final. Indeed, the Blues boss seems willing to recall his star striker.
"He is our player, there is always a way back, we will clear this behind closed doors and once we have made a decision and Romelu knows, you will maybe know also. It is not to be discussed now," Tuchel said.
He went on to reveal how he consulted Chelsea's leadership group on the decision to drop Lukaku: "I take decisions for the team and I listen to them.
"I hear their opinion, what they think and then I make my decisions once I hear them out. It is their club, their team and it is not a personal thing from me to decide only on my thoughts. We have a squad who we protect and which is strong in belief and behaviours.
"This is how we take decisions, not only this time, but we regularly speak to the five or six players to get their opinion and inside view. We want a clearer understanding of the situation and take a decision on a bigger foundation."
This could end up being a footnote in a continued working relationship, or it could further blow up and define this club's season.
The Blues next face Manchester City and Tottenham in the league and could be sucked into a top-four battle with a host of big teams if things don't go well.
Right now, it seems like the other members of Chelsea's first-team squad are trying to ensure that the manager doesn't fall into the same spiral of doom like Maurizio Sarri, Antonio Conte and Jose Mourinho before him.
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