West Ham were handed a tasty trip to sixth-tier Kidderminster Harriers as the FA Cup served up a David and Goliath tie in the fourth-round draw.

David Moyes' Hammers beat top-flight rivals Leeds United 2-0 on Sunday to pass their first test in this season's competition, and now face a game they dare not lose.

Kidderminster and West Ham are five divisions apart in the English football system and both sit fifth in their respective leagues – the National League North and Premier League.

A stunning 2-1 third-round win over Championship outfit Reading carried Russell Penn's Kidderminster through to the last-32 stage, and now the West Midlands side can prepare for the visit of top-flight high-flyers to Aggborough.

Cup holders Leicester City, who saw off Watford on Saturday, were drawn to travel to either Nottingham Forest or Arsenal, who went into battle at the City Ground on Sunday evening.

Among the Premier League elite, Chelsea were handed a home draw against League One side Plymouth Argyle, Manchester City will host Fulham, Liverpool will tackle Cardiff City at Anfield, and Tottenham will welcome Brighton and Hove Albion.

Manchester United, who face Aston Villa at Old Trafford on Monday, will face Middlesbrough if they come through the tussle with Steven Gerrard's side.

There was perhaps a tinge of disappointment for League One side Cambridge United, who were not rewarded for upsetting Newcastle United with another glamorous tie against Premier League opposition. Instead, they will entertain Luton Town of the Championship, while National League side Boreham Wood, who knocked out AFC Wimbledon, were handed a trip to Bournemouth.

FA Cup fourth-round draw in full:

Crystal Palace v Hartlepool United, Bournemouth v Boreham Wood, Huddersfield Town v Barnsley, Peterborough United v QPR, Cambridge United v Luton Town, Southampton v Coventry City, Chelsea v Plymouth, Everton v Brentford, Kidderminster v West Ham, Manchester United or Aston Villa v Middlesbrough, Tottenham v Brighton and Hove Albion, Liverpool v Cardiff City, Stoke City v Wigan Athletic, Nottingham Forest or Arsenal v Leicester City, Manchester City v Fulham, Wolves v Norwich City.

Ties to be played on the weekend of February 4-7.

Tottenham survived a huge scare at home to third-tier strugglers Morecambe as they came from behind to win 3-1 and advance to round four of the FA Cup. 

Antonio Conte fielded an unfamiliar XI that showed eight changes from the midweek EFL Cup loss to Chelsea, and Spurs went behind to Anthony O'Connor's close-range finish.

Spurs boss Conte, who has reached the final in his only two previous seasons in the competition, turned to Harry Kane and Lucas Moura with a little over 20 minutes remaining. 

Tottenham levelled soon after through Harry Winks' fortuitous free-kick and Lucas completed the comeback in the 85th minute, before Kane netted to seal a nervy passage through.

Matt Doherty, one of three Spurs players to retain his place in the side along with Ben Davies and Japhet Tanganga, headed against the post from an acute angle in a lively start.

But Tottenham found themselves behind after 33 minutes when visiting captain O'Connor volleyed Alfie McCalmont's inswinging corner past Pierluigi Gollini from six yards.

Spurs were booed off at the break but Conte held off from introducing Kane for the hosts, who went close through a flicked Dele Alli shot that Trevor Carson superbly tipped over.

Ryan Sessegnon then dragged wide from a good position, after Alli's penalty appeals were waved away, prompting Conte to bring on Kane, Lucas and Oliver Skipp.

That sparked some life into the home side, with Carson misjudging Winks' free-kick from close to the left touchline as Spurs levelled.

Lucas put Tottenham in front for the first time when the Brazilian caught Ryan McLaughlin in possession, raced clear and rounded Carson for a simple finish into an empty net.

Kane, who missed a great headed chance prior to Lucas' crucial goal, added a third for Spurs with a smart finish away from the despairing Morecambe goalkeeper's reach.

Tottenham head coach Antonio Conte has suggested the club must match his ambition as he looks to improve Spurs.

Conte only signed a contract for a year and a half after taking over from Nuno Espirito Santo in November.

The former Inter coach believes that is not an issue, however, as he insisted he has joined Spurs to help build the club.

However, Conte – who left Inter last year after winning the title amid financial limitations – also implied that Tottenham must match his ambition in order to grow.

"I signed a contract for this season and next season," Conte told a news conference ahead of Spurs' FA Cup third-round tie with Morecambe.

"I think that we decided together, the club and I, to go for this decision. I think that I don't need a long contract to be sure to work for a club. I think that the club has to appreciate my job and then extend my contract, but only if I showed the club I deserve this.

"I'm not a coach that wants many years of a contract. Also, it's not fair, because I know very well I'm a top coach with an important salary for the club.

"I'm open to improve the Tottenham situation and I decided to sign a contract with this club and I'm available to give my opinion, to give my vision, and it won't be a problem for me, a short contract – only one year to go. It's OK because Tottenham has to be sure 120 per cent to continue to work with me.

"I'm happy to work with this group because they are giving me great availability. But at the same time, you know the club has to know my vision, has to know my opinion about the situation and especially what is our ambition."

Conte has overseen a turnaround in fortunes for Spurs, going unbeaten in his first eight Premier League games in charge, winning five of them.

Under the ex-Chelsea and Italy boss, Tottenham have scored 14 league goals, conceding just four times.

That is in contrast to 11 top-flight goals netted and 16 goals conceded across 10 games during Nuno's brief stint, with the Portuguese overseeing five wins and as many defeats.

 

Spurs are far more creative under Conte, averaging 11.5 chances per game compared to 7.1 under Nuno.

Their expected goals (xG) average per game has also doubled, from 1.0 to 2.0, while they are better defensively, facing on average 10 shots per match as opposed to 15, with their mean xGA (expected goals against) value dropping from 1.5 to 0.78.

"When I decided to sign with Tottenham, I know what happened recently in the story of the club," Conte said.

"When you arrive at a new club, you have to go into the situation to understand it very well and to know it very well.

"Outside you can only imagine. It's the same with the players. Outside, you can give an evaluation about a player and then I think when you are the coach of the player and you live with the player day by day, you understand everything about the player and I think it's the same for me.

"I am enjoying my time in Tottenham because I have found a group of players who have shown me a great availability, and they show me the will, the desire to improve in many aspects, and when you have this type of player you are happy."

Adama Traore has 18 months left to run on his Wolves contract, and it does not appear he will rush to sign a new deal.

The rapid winger was of interest to Tottenham in the off-season, when they were coached by former Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo.

Though Nuno's spell at Spurs was short-lived, it appears Antonio Conte is also an admirer of Traore.

 

TOP STORY: SPURS TO MAKE TRAORE MOVE?

Tottenham are looking for reinforcements this month, as they aim to provide Antonio Conte with the resources he needs to push for Champions League qualification. However, they were dealt a blow this week when Conte confirmed Son Heung-min is set to miss the rest of January with a muscular injury.

With Son out, Sky Sports believes Tottenham will reignite their interest in Traore, a player they wanted to sign before the season started.

The report also states that Spurs may bring in Traore to provide competition for both an attacking role and right wing-back duties in Conte's preferred 3-4-3 or 3-5-2 shape.

ROUND-UP

- According to Fichajes, two Premier League clubs are interested in signing Barcelona forward Martin Braithwaite .

- Sky Sports reports that Aston Villa wish to sign Brighton and Hove Albion midfielder Yves Bissouma this month.

- The same outlet has also claimed that Real Madrid's Gareth Bale may consider a move to the Championship, with Swansea City or Cardiff City mooted as possible destinations.

- Fabrizio Romano has said that Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum is unlikely to join Arsenal in January.

- According to the presenter Oriol Domenech on TV3, Barca president Joan Laporta has been telling people close to him that he is very confident of signing Erling Haaland later this year.

- Manchester United are preparing a bid for PSG forward Mauro Icardi, should Anthony Martial and Edinson Cavani leave the club, L'Equipe reports.

- Gianluca Di Marzio has reported that Juventus have received several offers for midfielder Arthur, who could leave this month.

Tottenham boss Antonio Conte fears Son Heung-min could be unavailable until after the next international break after the South Korea international picked up a muscle injury.

Son - who has made 21 appearances for Spurs in all competitions this season, registering eight goals and three assists - came off after 79 minutes of Wednesday's 2-0 EFL Cup semi-final first leg defeat against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, but Conte insists that was not because of an injury at the time.

Speaking at a news conference ahead of Sunday's FA Cup third-round tie against League One outfit Morecambe, the former Chelsea and Inter boss said the player felt a pain in his leg the following day and has had a scan to evaluate the damage.

"It was a strange situation," Conte told reporters. "Against Chelsea, I made two substitutions together, with Lucas Moura and then Son. But not for injury, the substitutions, but only to try to give them a bit of rest, 15 minutes of rest.

"Then the day after, he felt a bit of pain in his muscle, in his leg. He had a scan and now we have to make the right evaluation from the doctors. He has an injury.

"I don't know, but probably he will stay without training sessions until the end of this cycle, before the international break."

The next international break is scheduled for the end of this month, meaning that Son would be unable to play for Tottenham again until February.

It will be a big blow to Conte, with Son having created more chances (33) than any other Spurs player this season, ahead of Lucas Moura (27), Harry Kane (21), Sergio Reguilon (20) and Emerson Royal (18).

Conte was also asked about whether there have been discussions about potential incomings in the January transfer window, to which he responded: "The first person who wants to improve the situation is for sure our owner.

"I will have time to speak, also with the people who work within the club to try to understand well the situation, to understand if there is the opportunity to improve this squad in this transfer market. But I think we will do the same thing that all of the teams are doing in these days.

"We have two ways to improve the situation, one is to improve the level of the players that we have in our squad. Another is to implement new players and improve the quality of the squad. But, as you know very well, January is not easy for anyone. So we'll see what happens."

Tottenham have condemned a section of their fanbase that chanted homophobic abuse during their EFL Cup tie at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea beat Antonio Conte's team 2-0 in the first leg of the semi-final on Wednesday.

It has emerged there was homophobic chanting from a section of the travelling support during the derby encounter.

Spurs released a statement on Thursday making it clear there is no place for such conduct.

"The club is extremely disappointed by homophobic chanting from sections of our support at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night," the statement read.

"We work closely with our LGBTQ+ fan group Proud Lilywhites to create a welcoming and inclusive environment at our club and are proud to display the Progress Flag in our stadium on matchdays.

"No one should suffer discrimination because of their sexual orientation and/or their gender identity, and we urge supporters not to use this chant.

"There is no place for discrimination at Tottenham Hotspur."

The Premier League has confirmed rearranged dates for three fixtures that were postponed over the festive period.

In total, 18 matches were postponed over Christmas as rising coronavirus cases at clubs across the league led to large-scale disruption.

The issues have continued into the new year, with the first leg of the EFL Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Arsenal having to be pushed back, while the Reds' FA Cup clash with Shrewsbury Town this weekend is also in doubt.

Three top-flight games were rearranged last week, with Southampton versus Brentford, Everton versus Leicester City and West Ham versus Norwich City to be played on January 11 and 12.

Now, three more games have been confirmed to be taking place the following week, including fixtures for Manchester United and Tottenham.

Brentford host United on January 19, while Leicester and Spurs face each other in the day's other fixture.

January 18 sees Burnley host Watford and Chelsea visit Brighton and Hove Albion.

The latter game was set to take place in February, but has had to be moved forward due to the Blues' participation in the FIFA Club World Cup. The teams drew 1-1 at Stamford Bridge on December 29.

Arsenal's match with Burnley that was planned for Saturday, January 22 has now been pushed back to January 23, with the Gunners set to play Liverpool in the rearranged EFL Cup fixture on January 20.

Thomas Tuchel praised the performance of the returning Romelu Lukaku after Chelsea's EFL Cup win over Tottenham.

The Blues took a huge step towards reaching the final after claiming a 2-0 victory in the first leg of the last-four tie at Stamford Bridge.

Lukaku was restored to the starting line-up after he was left out of the squad for Sunday's Premier League clash with Liverpool due to comments made in the Italian media.

The former Inter striker was quoted as saying he was "not very happy with the situation" he finds himself in, while expressing a desire to return to the Nerazzurri one day.

However, the Belgium international subsequently apologised to Tuchel, as well as the fans on the club's official website.

He played the full 90 minutes against Spurs – recording game-high tallies of three shots on goal and two on target – and the head coach was pleased with his contribution under difficult circumstances.

 

Asked what he made of Lukaku's performance, he told Sky Sports: "Good, absolutely happy. I was pretty sure he was not affected. 

"I see him on a daily basis. Even the last days, he seemed relaxed, fine with the situation and mentally moved on. 

"Romelu can handle pressure and adversity. It was a good performance; he contributed a lot to our defensive setup and had chances."

Tuchel also praised the focus and commitment of his players, although he believes they could have increased their margin of victory.

"It seems like a deserved win, an excellent result because it reflects the game," he added. "We could have scored more, but it is hard to score against Tottenham.

"We did create a lot – some huge chances – it could have been possible to score more.

"We never lost the focus; [we] never lost the commitment."

Antonio Conte pulled no punches in his assessment of Tottenham after losing 2-0 to Chelsea in the first leg of the EFL Cup semi-final, acknowledging "there's no comparison" between the two teams.

Spurs were well beaten at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday, with two defensively poor goals allowing Chelsea to build up what proved to be an unassailable lead before half-time.

Japhet Tanganga first saw his pass cut out by Marcos Alonso, who fed Kai Havertz to open the scoring five minutes in.

Tanganga then saw his unchallenged headed clearance strike Ben Davies and go into his own goal, with Spurs failing to even muster a single shot before the break.

Conte altered his system at half-time, changing to a back four and bringing on Tanguy Ndombele in midfield – Spurs were better, but their five shots was still only a little over half of Chelsea's nine in the second period.

According to Spurs' expected goals (xG) of 0.37, they would have been extremely fortunate if they had managed to breach Kepa Arrizabalaga's goal, while Chelsea's 2.2 accentuated just how much more threatening – and clinical – they were.

For Conte, it was a brutal reminder of how far Spurs still have to go to be able to consider themselves competitive rivals of the likes of Chelsea, whom he was facing at Stamford Bridge for the first time since leaving them in July 2018.

"It was a difficult game, difficult from the start," Conte told Sky Sports. "Chelsea showed to be much better than us.

"The first half, we struggled a lot from the start but we know that we are talking about one of the best teams in Europe, in the world.

"Last season they won the Champions League. If you compare the two teams, there is not a comparison.

"We are talking about a team ready to win – we have seen the difference between the two teams.

"It is not easy to play at Stamford Bridge, the way they were very concentrated, they won the ball every time and then we conceded also a goal [that was] unlucky.

"When you start the game and after a few minutes they score, for sure the game becomes very difficult, but I know the situation, it's very clear in this moment there is an important gap [between Spurs and the best teams].

"We have to try to fight to stay in the league in a good position, but if we think we are close, I think we are not in the right way."

The defeat and Conte's scathingly honest appraisal of Spurs' situation might be hard to stomach for some, but the Italian reiterated the need for patience and highlighted the importance of not sugarcoating anything for his team.

"There is a lot of jobs to do," he continued. "In this moment, it is very difficult to understand which part you take to improve because there is a lot of situations to improve.

"We need time, and patience. Everyone has to have patience, because Tottenham in the last years the level has dropped a lot and now we have to fight to win every game.

"I started my experience with Tottenham and every game we have fought, and now we struggle to win the game, it wasn't a game you could say it was easy.

"We have to be humble, to understand the situation at the moment and continue to work to improve our players, then we will see. It is not simple to say go in the transfer market, in January it won't be easy and now the most important thing is to be focused and work to improve.

"The results in the league were good, we reached the semi-final in the EFL Cup and for Tottenham at this moment that is a good target.

"I am always very honest with my players, we have to clap the performance of Chelsea. I like to tell the truth and with a good lie you don't go anywhere. They showed to be a really good team, much better than us.

"We have to try to change this situation, slowly, slowly. It is impossible to change the situation in one or two transfer windows.

"There is a lot of jobs to do in Tottenham and we need a lot of time. It is important for patience and for me also to have patience."

Chelsea put one foot in the EFL Cup final thanks to a comfortable 2-0 victory over Tottenham in Wednesday's semi-final first leg on a chastening return to Stamford Bridge for Antonio Conte.

Thomas Tuchel, seemingly eager to put recent indiscretions to one side after an apology, reinstated Romelu Lukaku to his starting XI, though Chelsea's victory arguably said more about Spurs' defence than the hosts' attack.

The Blues were ahead inside five minutes as Kai Havertz punished a Japhet Tanganga error at the back, and a comical Ben Davies own goal had Chelsea cruising at the interval.

Spurs improved somewhat in the second 45 minutes but were fortunate not to concede more goals, with Timo Werner spurning a couple of excellent opportunities, perhaps giving Conte's men a lifeline for the return leg.

Lukaku should have made a swift impact when released into the box in the first minute, only to bizarrely opt for a cut-back that went to no one.

Spurs gifted them another chance soon after, though, and Chelsea took it – Marcos Alonso cut out Tanganga's dreadful pass and fed Havertz, who found the net despite Davinson Sanchez's best efforts.

The dominant home side made it 2-0 just past the half-hour mark, Tanganga's unchallenged headed clearance bouncing back off Davies and going in.

Spurs, who introduced Tanguy Ndombele at half-time, were brighter early in the second period, with Harry Kane testing Kepa Arrizabalaga via a 20-yard free-kick.

Still, the best chances went the way of Chelsea and Werner, who first shot agonisingly wide and then saw Hugo Lloris just about reach his lobbed effort after an exquisite pass from Hakim Ziyech.

A late Ndombele effort from Bryan Gil's pull-back was then well saved by Kepa as the Blues kept their clean sheet intact.

What does it mean? Chelsea in control of the tie

The last trophy Spurs won was via this competition in 2008 – on the evidence of this first leg, they will not be ending that drought in next month's final.

Sure, there was undoubtedly an improvement from Spurs in the second half here, but they could not really have gotten any worse – they failed to register a single shot in the first 45 minutes. Even then, Chelsea were still on another level after the break.

Conte has received a lot of praise for the impact he has had on Spurs in just a couple of months at the helm, but this was a reminder of how far they still have to go.

Fruitful from the flanks

Alonso and Ziyech were both impressive out wide for the Blues. The Spaniard was deployed as a left-back rather than wing-back but still got forward to great effect, making the interception and playing the pass for the first goal – that was one of three key passes. The only player to register more (four) was Ziyech on the right, whose use of the ball was often excellent in the final third.

You've been Tangangoed!

This was a day to forget for Tanganga. It was his poor pass to Emerson Royal that was intercepted in the build-up to the first goal, and then his header went in off Davies for the second when he was under virtually no pressure.

What's next?

These two will resume hostilities next Wednesday in the second leg at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, but before that, both teams are in FA Cup action. Chelsea host Chesterfield on Saturday, while Spurs welcome Morecambe to north London the following day.

Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel has revealed that N'Golo Kante and Thiago Silva have tested positive for COVID-19.

The pair were left out of Chelsea's starting line-up for Wednesday's EFL Cup semi-final first leg against Tottenham and will now serve a period of self-isolation.

Kante has featured in 17 of the Blues' 31 matches this season, while Silva – who signed a one-year contract extension on Monday – has been used 22 times.

It is the second time in a little over three months that France international Kante has tested positive for coronavirus.

Asked about the duo's absence from the side to face Tottenham, Tuchel told Sky Sports: "Unfortunately, Thiago and N'Golo have tested positive.

"It's huge for us because they are two huge players. We had the last information today in the morning, so it is quite challenging, but we will push.

"The guys who are here have our trust and our belief.

"We will push things to the maximum. The situation hasn't changed since some weeks ago, it's not the moment to repeat it, from here we are looking for solutions. 

"I have trust in the guys who play and hopefully we put in a strong performance."

As well as facing Tottenham over two legs, Chelsea also take on Chesterfield in the FA Cup and face Manchester City in the Premier League over the next 10 days.

Romelu Lukaku started the tie at Stamford Bridge, three days on from being left out of Chelsea's squad to face Liverpool after giving a controversial interview.

The striker made a public apology on Tuesday and was back involved against Spurs, with the Blues eyeing a first-leg advantage to take into next week's reverse fixture.

Chelsea have progressed from five of their last seven EFL Cup semi-final ties, failing only in 2012-13 (v Swansea City) and 2017-18 (v Arsenal) in that run.

Since winning three games in a row against Chelsea between 2018 and 2019, Tottenham were winless in their last eight against the Blues in all competitions prior to Wednesday's game.

If Thomas Tuchel is after any advice on how to deal with the Romelu Lukaku issue, the Chelsea head coach could do worse than to have a brief word with the man he will come face-to-face with on Wednesday.

Under now-Tottenham boss Antonio Conte across two seasons with Inter, Lukaku enjoyed the best form of his career, scoring and assisting a combined 81 goals in 95 appearances.

Lukaku has not been as prolific since returning to Stamford Bridge in August, finding the net seven times in 18 games, and already his future at Chelsea has been called into question following an explosive interview in the Italian press that was published last week.

The Belgium international was subsequently dropped for Chelsea's crucial clash with Liverpool on Sunday but is in line return for the EFL Cup semi-final first leg with Spurs after holding clear-the-air talks with his manager, meaning a possible reunion with Conte.

Here, Stats Perform looks at how Conte got Lukaku out of the "deep hole" he found himself in at Manchester United, as the striker himself put it, and explores how Tuchel can go about getting the most out of Chelsea's all-time record purchase.


ROM AMONG EUROPE'S ELITE

As well as declaring an unhappiness with his role at Chelsea and expressing a desire to return to Inter as part of his 30-minute chat with Sky Sport Italia, Lukaku also opened up on the "hurt" he felt when Conte departed San Siro.

That is no surprise given the Belgian's form between arriving at Inter in August 2019 and departing two years later. 

The 47 Serie A goals scored by Lukaku in 72 games under Conte is his best return under any of the 11 managers he has played for at club level, followed by the 43 netted in 103 Premier League games when working with now-national team coach Roberto Martinez at Everton.

That includes a return of 24 goals in 2020-21 alone, on top of 11 assists, as he became the first player to score 20-plus goals and set up 10 or more in a single Serie A season since Opta started to record such data in 2004-05.

Indeed, only Cristiano Ronaldo (83), Kylian Mbappe (97), Lionel Messi (106) and Robert Lewandowski (121) were directly involved in more goals in all competitions among players from Europe's top five leagues than Lukaku's 81 across the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons.

 

FLOPPED IN FAVOURED FORMATION

That impressive form helped Inter end their 11-year wait for Scudetto success last time out, a year on from falling just short in the Europa League with defeat in the final, but Lukaku was not alone in inspiring the Nerazzurri to glory.

Alongside him was Lautaro Martinez, who was very much the perfect foil in Conte's preferred 3-5-2 formation, which the Italian used 31 times in 38 league matches last season.

It is a formation Tuchel has used on only two occasions in the Premier League this term – in September's 1-0 home defeat to Manchester City and the 1-0 victory at Brentford three weeks later. 

Lukaku started both games alongside Timo Werner and Chelsea's tally of five shots against City and five against Brentford are the fewest the Blues have managed in any league game this term – Lukaku responsible for just one of those – as were the four and two chances created respectively.

While City's quality and dominance of the ball must be factored in, Lukaku's minimal involvement against Brentford was surprising – and surely no coincidence.

That west London derby blank came in the midst of a 10-game run without a goal for Lukaku, not helped by niggling injuries and a COVID lay-off, which he has since put an end to with three goals in four matches.

Chelsea's formation in those three most recent games Lukaku has scored in, incidentally, came with three attackers spread across the frontline. And there was one other common denominator, too: Mason Mount being on the field.

 

MOUNT TO PLAY THE MARTINEZ ROLE?

Mount assisted Lukaku's most recent goal in a 1-1 draw against Brighton and Hove Albion from a corner and the pair have combined to create nine chances in total for one another in the league this term, making it easily Chelsea's most dangerous partnership.

No Chelsea player has combined more regularly with Lukaku than Mount, with the pair linking up 10.06 times per 90 minutes so far this season. While that may not appear a huge amount on the face of it, next on that list is Mateo Kovacic with 6.45 combined passes between himself and Lukaku per 90.

However, Mount still has some way to go if he is to match the 54 combined chances created for each other in Serie A by Lukaku and Martinez in their two seasons used in tandem at Inter, which equated to nine assists.

Lukaku's relationship with Mount does provide some promise, though, as does the Anderlecht academy product's goalscoring performances in his most recent two outings prior to being dropped against Liverpool, showing Chelsea do not necessarily have to replicate Inter's system to help their main man thrive.

 

TUCHEL WILL NOT SHIFT

Lukaku is averaging fewer passes, overall touches and touches in the opposition box this season compared to last, while also shooting less frequently, dribbling less and creating fewer chances for others.

Yet instead of attempting to find the perfect formula and personnel for Lukaku, Tuchel will not shift from his own way of thinking.

"We cannot just play like Inter in the hope that will bring the most out of Lukaku. The system they played not only suited Romelu but also Lautaro Martinez and others. If you don't have five players you can't play five defenders," Tuchel said on the eve of the Tottenham tie.

"It works both ways. It is more about principles of how we play. I feel he is more impatient than anything else. He wants to be involved more, wants more big chances. 

"Like with every transfer, you have to accept there is a change of environment, culture, team-mates, playing style, belief. He's not the first player to take time, but even while doing it he was scoring goals."

And maybe Tuchel has a point. After all, for all the talk of Lukaku's struggles and unhappiness, he is scoring at an almost identical rate to Cristiano Ronaldo (0.54 goals per 90 minutes compared to 0.56), and remains one of Europe's most prolific strikers of the past decade.

Now back from injury and a team exile brought on by his own actions, only Lukaku can ensure he avoids falling down another deep hole that he may this time be unable to escape.

Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel refuses to change his playing style to suit striker Romelu Lukaku, insisting "we cannot just play like Inter".

Lukaku caused a stir in a controversial interview released on Thursday and Friday, which was initially recorded three weeks ago, as he expressed his unhappiness with his current status at Chelsea.

He also spoke glowingly of former head coach Antonio Conte, who he worked with at Inter, while revealing he would like to return to the Serie A outfit one day.

Tuchel punished Lukaku for his comments by dropping him from his squad to face Liverpool before the pair held talks on Monday and they looked to put the matter aside the following day.

Lukaku has since come out to apologise to all involved at Chelsea, perhaps much to the relief of Tuchel, but the German insisted he will not change his playing style just to suit the forward.

Asked about Lukaku's comments on Conte and Chelsea's playing style, Tuchel said: "It works both ways and we do it with every single player, we have a certain formation and principles of how we play.

"I feel he is more impatient than anything else, he wants to be involved more and have big chances more.

"It is hard for him to accept that sometimes the grass does not grow faster when you cut it – in every transfer you have to accept there is a change of environment, culture, club and team-mates.

"There's a change of playing style and there's a change of league, he's not the first player to take some time - he was already scoring while settling down but we were still adapting to each other.

"We cannot just play like Inter plays and hope that will bring the best out of Romelu. They had a fantastic season because Conte is a fantastic coach.

"But I think the system he played at Inter did not only suit Romelu and the second striker Lautaro Martinez, it also fitted the entire squad. If you don't have five defenders you cannot play with a back five, it's as easy as that.

"The coaches do what they have to do, Conte played in 3-5-2 in the build-up at Chelsea and 3-4-3 at Inter. Obviously he is adapting to his players and from there implanting his ideas – that is exactly what I do as well."

The Belgian scored 47 times in 72 league outings with Conte at Inter – his best such tally under any manager – for a return of 0.72 goals per 90 minutes.

That compares to 0.54 goals per 90 minutes for Chelsea across his 13 games since returning, with the striker failing to assist a goal as of yet.

But Tuchel added that no player operating under his stewardship will be treated any differently to the other, with he and his backroom staff understanding it is their job to maximise the potential of their stars.

"It is of course for us to bring out the best of him, find the right position for him and the right connections to understand which movements and playing styles fit to each other," he continued.

"This is what we do for every single player, it does not matter if the player is expensive or a free agent, or if he's old or young, it does not change.

"In the end it is on the player, we can just help to fulfil his potential. Sometimes it is faster or slower, but everyone does their very best to bring out the full potential – we are still convinced there is room for improvement.

"That's why I was surprised, I don't feel him unhappy, not at all. I was not at all offended as a coach, that's why I don't see a big change in our relationship coming."

Chelsea face Conte's new side Tottenham on Wednesday as the pair do battle in the EFL Cup semi-final first leg at Stamford Bridge.

Indeed, Conte previously managed the Blues between 2016 and 2018, winning the Premier League and the FA Cup, and Tuchel was incredibly complimentary of the Italian manager.

"He puts them in positions where they are confident so they can fulfil their potential, this is what Antonio Conte is doing on the domestic level to an outstanding impact," he continued.

"I have nothing but respect for him and I really love to watch his teams play, it will be a pleasure to play against him. We're fully aware how successful he was with Chelsea, I have no doubt how successful he will be with Tottenham.

"I met him once in a friendly match and we had a nice talk during the warm-up. He knows I appreciate a lot what he is doing, his style and all his energy into his team.

"You can clearly see that in any club that he works, you see it is a Conte team as they defend and attack with all the intensity.

"His teams are very hard to beat, it has always been like this and it will be like that on Wednesday."

Antonio Conte labelled his Tottenham appointment as a signal of intent to their competitors and to Harry Kane.

Kane endured a tough start to the 2021-22 campaign, scoring just one goal in his first 13 league games after seemingly having his head turned amid interest from Pep Guardiola's Manchester City.

Spurs, without their talisman Kane firing, suffered in the league and were ninth after five top-flight losses in seven games before the former Inter head coach took charge in the wake of Nuno Espirito Santo's sacking.

They have since appeared revitalised under Conte, who set and then extended a club record as he remains unbeaten in his opening eight league games.

It is a run which has propelled Tottenham to sixth, two points behind fourth-placed rivals Arsenal while still boasting two games in hand.

Kane has also started to find the net, managing three goals in his last four Premier League games, and Conte outlined how Spurs' standpoint with their striker during the interest from City displayed their desire to build something special.

"I followed the situation about Harry and I have seen what happened and what could happen," he said. "The club decided to keep Harry in the team and it was a great choice of the owner. 

"You are showing you want to continue to build something important around one of the best players in the team.

"Harry is a player of Tottenham and continues to be one of the best in the team. He's a point of reference in the dressing room.

"I think Tottenham wanted to bring me here to send a signal outside and also to our players."

The England captain has won the Premier League Golden Boot award three times but has never lifted any trophies with Spurs during his time at the club.

Questions have been raised as to whether the striker will chase silverware and leave his boyhood club, though Conte feels he understands why Kane is yet to move on.

"Yeah I understand Harry's situation because for sure when you finish your career you can see your appearances and the team where you played but at the same time it's right also to see what you have won," he continued. 

"I think that this is important for top players because sometimes it happens that important players finish their career with a couple of titles and others below them have more.

"We are talking about a really good person and a good man. This is the most important thing, I knew the situation in the summer but then when Harry decided to stay I had found a player totally involved in the project. 

"I'm happy to have him in my team, we're talking about a top player and a top striker. He knows well my opinion but I repeat I'm very happy to work with him."

 

Conte will be hoping Kane can blast Spurs past his former side Chelsea in the EFL Cup semi-final when the first leg takes place on Wednesday.

Both of Conte's previous two losses in the competition have come against London sides, losing to West Ham in 2016-17 and to Arsenal over two legs in the 2017-18 semi-final.

While Spurs have progressed from six of their last eight EFL Cup semi-final ties, Conte believes there is a sizeable rebuilding job to do after the departure of Mauricio Pochettino, who guided Tottenham to the Champions League final in 2018-19.

"I have to be honest, if we have to compare this Tottenham and in the past I think in the past Tottenham was a team with many players with more experience in the league," he added.

"They had good momentum in the past to try and win something. Now, I think we're in a moment when we're starting again.

"We lost many players and now there are young players you have to wait. To get the right mentality, to win, you must have the right mentality. 

"It means you must be focused every day. You have to think football more than two or three hours in your day.

"You make yourself to be a winner but you need time and people that transfer you the right sensation and thoughts every day - but you need time.

"I think Mauricio did a fantastic job as he took a group of young players and they grew and became a contender for the title. I remember at Chelsea they fought until the end with us and Leicester [City]. 

"The level now has dropped a bit as players left and now we have to try to have the time and patience to build again a good situation."

Romelu Lukaku has apologised to all involved at Chelsea for a controversial interview released last week as he looks to move forward from his mistake.

Lukaku was left out of Chelsea's Premier League squad on Sunday for the 2-2 draw with Liverpool as punishment for comments made in the Italian press.

In a wide-ranging discussion, Lukaku said he was not "very happy with the situation" at Chelsea and expressed a willingness to return to Inter someday.

The interview was conducted three weeks ago but was released in parts on Thursday and Friday, with Blues head coach Thomas Tuchel subsequently standing by his decision to leave Lukaku out of his side as he looked to quash the issue temporarily.

Rumours suggested the Belgium international could be heading for a Stamford Bridge exit, but Tuchel has since confirmed Lukaku returned to training on Tuesday following talks the previous day.

Lukaku has now come out to address the matter in public in an attempt to put the issue to one side.

"To the fans, I'm sorry for the upset I have caused," he said in an interview published by Chelsea's website.

"You guys know the connection I have had with this club since my teenage years, so you know I totally understand you guys being upset.

"Obviously it's up to me now to restore your trust, and every day I will do my best on the training ground and in the games to try to help us win.

"To the manager I apologise, and to my team-mates and the board because I think it was not the right moment also.

"I want to move forward from this and make sure that we start winning football games and I can help the team in the best manner."

Lukaku revealed in the previous interview that he would one day like to return to Inter, where he enjoyed playing under former head coach Antonio Conte.

The striker's comments were met with disdain by Inter fans, but Lukaku has tried to clarify why he agreed to the interview in the first place.

"I should've been much clearer in my message to be totally honest," he continued.

"The interview was about saying goodbye to the Inter fans, it was not about trying to disrespect the [Chelsea] fans and the football club, the owner, my team-mates and the manager.

"They made a lot of effort to bring me back here and I wanted to come back here, I’ve been on a mission since I left.

"They [the fans] don't need to question [my commitment]. I always said I wanted to come here and to be successful, that's why I signed a five-year deal. I think Chelsea is a club that equals success.

"All the players that come here come for winning and I have a special passion for this club. I want to achieve that with this club, I want to win here for many years. I want to make sure I show my commitment every day.

"There are images when I came with my school on a trip that I wanted to play for Chelsea. I came when I was 18, it didn't go so well, now I'm back at 28 in the prime years of my career, I can't mess this up.

"I worked hard for the last 10 years to get this opportunity and I'm really happy to be here."

Lukaku, if selected, will look to redeem himself on the pitch against Conte's Tottenham on Wednesday in the first leg of their EFL Cup semi-final.

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