Soccer-Chelsea's Lukaku omitted from squad to face Liverpool

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Premier League - Chelsea v Brighton & Hove Albion - Stamford Bridge, London, Britain - December 29, 2021 Chelsea's Romelu Lukaku after the match Action Images via Reuters/John Sibley

LONDON (Reuters) - Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku was left out of the squad to face Liverpool at home on Sunday after saying he was dissatisfied with his role at Stamford Bridge.

The 28-year-old, who signed from Inter Milan in the close season for a club-record 97.5 million pounds ($132 million), told Sky Italy recently that he was unhappy with manager Thomas Tuchel's system.

Lukaku also said he would like to return to Italy at some point in his career.

Asked about the Belgian international's comments ahead of the Liverpool game, Tuchel said they were "not helpful".

"We don't like it of course. It brings noise that we don't need and it's not helpful ... We can take the time to try and understand what is going on ... if there is something to discuss it's behind closed doors, for sure," the German told reporters.

Lukaku has scored in his last two Premier League appearances -- against Aston Villa and Brighton & Hove Albion -- following his return to the side after testing positive for COVID-19.

He has netted seven times in 18 games across all competitions this season.

Lukaku's place went to Kai Havertz, who returned to the starting 11 after isolating with COVID-19.

Liverpool also had notable absences. Goalkeeper Alisson Becker, striker Roberto Firmino and defender Joel Matip missed out on the trip to Stamford Bridge after returning positive tests for COVID-19, as did manager Juergen Klopp, the Merseyside club said.

Chelsea are second in the standings with 42 points from 20 games, a point ahead of third-placed Liverpool, who have a game in hand.

($1 = 0.7392 pounds)

(Reporting by Dhruv Munjal in Bengaluru and William Schomberg in London; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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