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."

Chelsea wing-back Marcos Alonso will no longer take a knee before Premier League matches as he believes the anti-racism gesture "is losing a bit of strength".

Players have been taking a knee prior to kick-off in Premier League games since June 2020 in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

Crystal Palace forward Wilfried Zaha and Brentford striker Ivan Toney have both opted out of the gesture this year, arguing that more should be done to eradicate racism.

Alonso has now followed suit and will instead point to the Premier League's 'No Room for Racism' badge on his sleeve when other players kneel.

"I am fully against racism and I'm against every type of discrimination. I just prefer to put my finger to the badge where it says no to racism, like they do in some other sports and football in other countries," Alonso said.

"I prefer to do it this way and, of course, to say very clearly that I am against racism and I respect everybody."

Asked if his decision was a political one, Alonso said: "I don't know. I just prefer to do it this way. It's my way to do it, I think it's another way.

"And maybe I think it's losing a bit of strength the other way, so I just prefer to do it this way and to show I am fully supportive of fighting against racism."

Alonso, who took a knee throughout last season, has not discussed the issue with his Chelsea team-mates.

"We haven't talked about it. We are in the changing room and we are like a family," he said. "I have a very good relationship with everyone. 

"I love everyone and, up to now, we haven't talked about it. I don't think there is a need to but, of course, if I have to speak to anyone, I will say the same that I just told you and I don't think there will be any problems. 

"For now, I prefer to point to the sleeve and that's what I will do."

Romelu Lukaku's return to Chelsea has bolstered team-mate Marcos Alonso's optimism for the season ahead.

The Belgium forward moved back to Stamford Bridge from Inter for a reported £97.5million (€115m) fee, having proven prolific in Italy.

Lukaku led Inter to their first Serie A title in a decade last season, netting 24 league goals.

Having left the Blues in 2014, Lukaku rejoins a club who won the Champions League under Thomas Tuchel last term and Alonso is thrilled to have the 28-year-old on board.

"I'm looking forward to playing with him," the Spaniard told Chelsea's official website.

"He's going to be a great help for us. He's a great player, it's good to have him back and I'm looking forward to start training with him."

Alonso, who scored the opening goal in Saturday's curtain-raising 3-0 Premier League victory over Crystal Palace, was also delighted to have fans back at Stamford Bridge.

He is now hoping the team can build on last season's success with another strong campaign on all fronts.

"We all feel it. It's a massive difference. We were all looking forward to it and it's great to have the fans back," he said.

"I was very happy for that goal. It's been a tough pre-season as usual, so I'm very happy to start the season like that. I'm looking forward to the next one.

"We need to leave our Champions League victory for now and focus on the new season. There are a lot of things to play for. We need to go again like the end of last season, 100 per cent, and step by step we will get there."

Next up in Sunday's trip to London rivals Arsenal, where Lukaku will be in line to make his second debut for the club.

European champions Chelsea kicked off their Premier League campaign with a routine 3-0 win over London rivals Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

Three days after winning the UEFA Super Cup on penalties against Villarreal, adding to May's Champions League triumph, the Blues dominated against Palace from start to finish.

Christian Pulisic was brought into the side as one of five changes from that midweek cup win and scored before half-time to add to Marcos Alonso's 27th-minute opener.

Palace's first game under Patrick Vieira went from bad to worse as Trevoh Chalobah marked his league debut for Chelsea with a superb goal, giving the returning home fans plenty of reason to celebrate.

Goalscorers Alonso and Pulisic combined early on as the latter glanced a header on target for Vicente Guaita to keep out.

Mason Mount tested Guaita from a free-kick, but the Palace shot-stopper could not get anywhere near Alonso's attempt, the wing-back curling the ball over the wall and into the net from 25 yards.

That was Chelsea's 50th direct free-kick goal in the Premier League – only Manchester United (64) have more – and they deservedly doubled their lead in the 40th minute.

Guaita spilled Mount's low cross from the right and Pulisic took full advantage by firing home the loose ball from close range.

Chelsea did not take their foot off the gas and had a third goal before the hour mark thanks to academy graduate Chalobah's long-ranger that went in off the left-hand post.

The hosts continued to threaten without finding a way through, but Tuchel would have been equally pleased with a first clean sheet in five league games stretching back into last season.

 

What does it mean? Chelsea off to strong start

This Premier League campaign may be the most competitive yet in terms of the title race, with Chelsea very much among the favourites following the return of Romelu Lukaku for a club-record fee.

While the prolific striker did not feature in this opening game, the hosts still looked impressive pretty much from the first whistle against a Palace side very much under construction.

Chelsea have now won eight league games in a row against Palace and, while tougher tests lie in wait, this was a very promising start for Tuchel's men.

Pulisic punishes Palace

United States international Pulisic, who perhaps still has a point to prove in what is his third campaign at Chelsea, simply loves playing against Palace.

He has now scored five goals in five Premier League games against the Eagles, accounting for 36 per cent of his 14 goals in the competition.

Werner to make way?

Lukaku will likely be ready to start Chelsea's next match and Tuchel has a big decision to make in terms of his attacking line-up.

Werner provides qualities that go beyond scoring goals, but he was on the periphery here as he registered just one shot and managed only 28 touches of the ball – the fewest of any outfield Chelsea starter – despite playing 90 minutes.

What's next?

Chelsea face rivals Arsenal on their return to Premier League action in eight days' time, while Palace host newly promoted Brentford next Saturday.

Is one of football's biggest transfer sagas coming to an end?

Manchester United wanted Jadon Sancho at the start of 2020-21 but a deal with Borussia Dortmund did not materialise.

However, Premier League giants United appear to be closing in on the England international ahead of the 2021-22 campaign.

 

TOP STORY – SANCHO SET FOR OLD TRAFFORD

Jadon Sancho will join Manchester United from Borussia Dortmund, according to Fabrizio Romano.

United have long been interested in Sancho, who had previously attracted attention from Liverpool and Chelsea.

But Romano says an agreement is "really close", with "final details expected to be completed in the next few days".

 

ROUND-UP

- Sport Bild reports Real Madrid are scouting RB Leipzig and Spain star Dani Olmo during Euro 2020. Madrid continue to be linked with Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe, however, Cadena Ser claims Los Blancos have ruled out an off-season move due to their financial situation.

United are confident of signing Raphael Varane from Madrid but the France defender's salary expectations are a stumbling block, says The Independent. It comes as ESPN reports Anthony Martial and Donny van de Beek could be sold as part of a revamp of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's squad.

- According to Foot Mercato, former Madrid captain Sergio Ramos has made PSG his priority. The veteran has also been linked with United, Manchester City and Chelsea.

Tottenham are interested in Sevilla centre-back Jules Kounde as they edge closer to appointing former Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo, says Romano and Gianluca Di Marzio. Kounde is one of the most sought-after defenders in Europe, linked with Chelsea, United and Madrid.

- Mundo Deportivo reports Barca are eyeing Valencia captain Jose Gaya and Chelsea's Marcos Alonso if Inter target Jordi Alba leaves and Junior Firpo joins Milan.

Lazio head coach Maurizio Sarri wants to reunite with Arthur in Rome and could send Sergej Milinkovic-Savic to Juventus, per Il Bianconero.

- Alfredo Pedulla claims PSG are leading the race to sign Lazio star Joaquin Correa. Arsenal and Tottenham are also eyeing the forward.

Manchester City's wait for a third Premier League title in four years went on after they suffered a 2-1 defeat against Chelsea at the weekend.

Pep Guardiola's side do have an unwanted statistic to their name in that ratio, however, having now lost three of their past four league outings at the Etihad Stadium.

Another trend to continue was Manchester United falling behind before beating Aston Villa 3-1.

As the season reaches its final stretch, players will be well aware it's a marathon not a sprint. Indeed, one of the division's most noted pace merchants has proved again he is adept at lasting the course.

Using Opta data, we take a look at these talking points from the most recent round of Premier League fixtures.

Aguero's Panenka woe continues City's penalty torment

Sergio Aguero knows a thing or two about scoring the goal to clinch a Premier League title, so City probably felt they had the perfect man standing over Saturday's penalty against Chelsea, with Guardiola's much-changed side 1-0 up thanks to Raheem Sterling.

But Aguero's awful chipped effort gave Edouard Mendy chance to go to ground, stand up again and catch the ball – a moment of complete embarrassment for the Premier League's all-time leading overseas goalscorer.

None of the misses have been quite as, well, hilarious as the one Aguero conjured up, but he joins Kevin De Bruyne, Ilkay Gundogan and Sterling in having failed from 12 yards this season.

These are not new problems, with those misses making City the first team since Tottenham in 1993-94 and 1994-95 to fail from four or more penalties in consecutive seasons.

Overall, City have missed 32 of 130 Premier League penalties, with Spurs (33), Liverpool, Aston Villa (both 34), Arsenal (36) and Manchester United (40) the only teams more profligate.

Of teams to have taken at least 50 Premier League penalties, Villa's 67.6 conversion percentage (71 from 105) is the worst. City have scored 98 out of 130 (75.4 per cent).

Marcos the marksman

When wing-back Marcos Alonso scuffed home Chelsea's winner at the Etihad Stadium, the inclination was to celebrate an "unlikely hero". However, the Spain international is no stranger to the scoresheet.

Alonso has now netted 24 goals for the Blues – the same number as Alvaro Morata and Daniel Sturridge and three more than Andriy Shevchenko.

In the Premier League era, only John Terry (61), Branislav Ivanovic (34) and Gary Cahill (25) have scored more often as Chelsea defenders.

Among his current team-mates, strikers Olivier Giroud and Tammy Abraham, with 39 and 30 respectively, are the only players with more goals for the club.

It is not beyond the realms of possibility that the forthcoming transfer window sees Alonso go into next season as Chelsea's leading club scorer.

Premier League record in sight for Solskjaer's comeback kings

When Bertrand Traore put them ahead on Sunday, Villa might have been forgiven for fearing the worst.

Sure enough, Mason Greenwood and Edinson Cavani were on target after Bruno Fernandes equalised from the penalty spot.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side now have 31 points from losing positions, bettering their previous best of 29 in 2012-13, when Alex Ferguson rounded off his celebrated tenure with one last title success.

In their four remaining games this term, United could overhaul the Premier League record of 34 points gained after falling behind, set by Bobby Robson's Newcastle United in 2001-02. Their 10 wins after conceding first in 2020-21 is already a competition best.

The Red Devils also claimed 24 points after going behind in 1999-00, when they retained the title. Arsenal emulated that feat in the same season, also doing so in 2011-12.

The equivalent of eight wins from behind has also been achieved by Everton in 2002-03 and Tottenham in 2010-11, the same campaign when West Brom turned deficits into 27 points.

Game of two halves for Traore

Coming from behind to win obviously requires a certain level of collective improvement throughout games. Individually, Adama Traore certainly seems to warm to his task as matches progress.

The Wolves winger netted the equaliser before Nuno Espirito Santo's men beat Brighton and Hove Albion 2-1.

That was his seventh career goal in the Premier League – all of which have been scored in the second half.

Traore's haul is the highest of exclusively second-half goals in the competition's history. His old Villa team-mate Rudy Gestede, former Middlesbrough midfielder Phil Stamp and ex-Newcastle and Ipswich Town forward Alex Mathie each have six.

Karel Poborsky, Gerald Sibon, Emre, Craig Fagan, Pablo Hernandez, Carlos Vela, Jose Holebas and Adam Smith all have five second-half Premier League goals, having never troubled the scorers before half-time.

Timo Werner is not lacking in confidence despite his Chelsea goal drought, according to head coach Thomas Tuchel.

Werner arrived at Stamford Bridge with a reputation as a prolific goalscorer following his move from Bundesliga side RB Leipzig

But the Germany international has scored just four times in 20 Premier League appearances, with his blank in Sunday's 2-0 win over Burnley stretching his barren run to 12 top-flight games.

The 24-year-old managed three shots on target against the Clarets – more than any other player – and had more touches inside the opposition penalty area (nine) than anyone else.

Despite another scoreless outing, Tuchel has no doubts over Werner's self-belief.

"He is totally into it, he gives everything," Tuchel explained.

"You can see, like every striker in the world, these guys are sensitive and nothing helps better than goals.

"If they miss the goals for a certain time then it isn't the same for them, it is not special to Timo, it happens with every striker in the world.

"He was confident to play but that is something you cannot demand, you either have it or you don't. But it is no problem, maybe he just needs to find an easy goal to bring out the last per cent."

Tuchel acknowledged Chelsea might have to adapt their system to the best out of Werner.

"We need to improve to bring him into situations to be decisive for us," added Tuchel.

"As long as he has the impact, works like he worked today, we will support him. We missed some chances to use him in counter-attacks which is his big strength, he has pure speed."

Goals from Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso secured the points for Chelsea but the standout performer for the Blues was Callum Hudson-Odoi.

The winger produced more crosses (six) than any other player in an attacking display full of swagger.

Tuchel said he already knew of the 20-year-old's quality before he took over from Frank Lampard and hopes Odoi can help spark Werner and his fellow strikers into life in front of goal.

"There were big rumours around him and Bayern Munich but he was in the focus way before I ever thought about being his manager," Tuchel added.

"He had another good game, if we can improve the precision of our guys in the box then maybe we can score more goals.

"He can have his input on the line, he has the ability to be decisive with his runs, his speed and at the moment we have opted for this structure."

Thomas Tuchel registered his first Premier League win as Chelsea head coach after a 2-0 victory over Burnley at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

Cesar Azpilicueta put the Blues ahead shortly before half-time with a crisp finish as Tuchel's side dominated proceedings, assuaging the frustrations of Wednesday's 0-0 draw with Wolves.

Marcos Alonso added a second late on when he spectacularly hooked the ball home after being restored to the side.

Burnley offered little threat at the other end, with Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy spared any attempt at his goal until deep into stoppage time.

Chelsea showed the early initiative as they directed much of their attacking play through the lively Hudson-Odoi.

Mason Mount lifted a shot over the crossbar as Chelsea registered five attempts in the first 15 minutes but without really testing Burnley goalkeeper Nick Pope.

Timo Werner got his feet into a tangle when the ball dropped for him in the box on the half-hour mark, while Marcos Alonso should have done better with a header from a promising position.

Chelsea's persistence was rewarded five minutes before half-time as Azpilicueta burst forward from defence to receive a pass on the overlap from Hudson-Odoi and strike an angled shot high into the net.

It was Azpilicueta's first goal in the Premier League since scoring against Arsenal in January 2020.

Tuchel replaced Tammy Abraham with Christian Pulisic at half-time as he moved Werner into a central position, but it was Hudson-Odoi who was the main threat.

The 20-year-old winger hit the post with a deflected shot and then shortly afterwards teased a low cross into the six-yard box which Pope kept out after James Tarkowski almost turned the ball into his own net.

Hudson-Odoi skimmed Erik Pieters again with 20 minutes left but Pulisic swept the ball wide from a good position, while Pope saved well from Reece James' low shot.

Alonso wrapped up the points six minutes from time when he controlled Pulisic's cross and acrobatically whipped the ball past Pope, with Burnley's only effort coming from Tarkowski's last-gasp header over the top.

The battle to sign David Alaba continues among European giants, while Thomas Tuchel is eyeing Dayot Upamecano at Chelsea.

Alaba, 28, is set to leave Bayern Munich at the end of the season and it was reported this month the defender had agreed a deal with Real Madrid.

But it seems the race to secure the Austria international's signature remains on.

 

TOP STORY – EUROPEAN GIANTS FIGHT FOR ALABA

Real Madrid have offered Alaba €11million per year and Manchester City are prepared to give the Bayern Munich star €14m, according to AS.

The report says Manchester United, Liverpool, Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea are also battling to sign Alaba.

Alaba has won nine Bundesliga titles and two Champions Leagues among numerous other trophies with Bayern.

 

ROUND-UP

- Tuchel's appointment as Chelsea head coach was confirmed on Tuesday, and the former PSG boss is already looking to strengthen. Bild reports Tuchel wants RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano at Stamford Bridge. It comes as The Guardian reports Chelsea's interest in West Ham midfielder Declan Rice is likely to end following Frank Lampard's sacking.

- Real Madrid have work to do before the end of the season. Marca reports Luka Modric has agreed a new contract with Madrid, while Sergio Ramos and Lucas Vazquez are yet to accept offers. The report says Karim Benzema, Raphael Varane and Nacho Fernandez are their next priorities.

- Eric Garcia is linked with a move to Barcelona. Sport reports the next president of the Catalan giants must ratify the defender's five-year deal if the Manchester City defender is to arrive ahead of next season.

- Out of contract at Paris Saint-Germain the end of the season, Angel Di Maria's future is uncertain. L'Equipe reports the attacker, though, is on track for an extension with the Ligue 1 giants.

- Staying at PSG and the club are still pushing to sign Dele Alli on loan, according to Fabrizio Romano, who reports Tottenham are unwilling to let the midfielder go until they sign a replacement.

- Jordi Alba turns 32 in March and Barcelona are considering the left-back's successor. Mundo Deportivo reports Valencia's Jose Gaya and Chelsea's Marcos Alonso are candidates.

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