Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel is eager to see how the club’s record signing Romelu Lukaku gets on against Liverpool defender Virgil Van Dijk this weekend when the London club travel to Anfield in the Premier League.
Both teams have won their opening two league games of the season without conceding and Tuchel said he expected Belgium striker Lukaku to rise to the challenge against Dutchman Van Dijk, one of the best centre backs in the world.
Lukaku signed for Chelsea for the second time earlier this month, moving from Inter Milan in a deal reported to be worth 97.5 million pounds ($134.19 million), and he scored 15 minutes into his second debut against Arsenal on Sunday.
“Liverpool with Van Dijk is a different Liverpool than without Van Dijk“, Tuchel told reporters on Friday. “For Romelu, it’s a big challenge. He had now one match with us, which was a very good start, so from now on we are into details“.
“The stress test is on tomorrow at Anfield… I am not sure if he has already reached his top level, maybe not because he has only one game in his legs, but he will have a good match tomorrow because he loves to play in these kinds of matches“.
“I’m looking forward to it. I think many fans of football are looking forward to that battle“.
Van Dijk spent nearly the whole of last season sidelined with a cruciate ligament injury that required surgery, and Liverpool struggled without him in their back line, finishing third behind Manchester City and Manchester United.
Chelsea’s last visit to Anfield in March ended in a 1-0 win for Tuchel’s team, but the German expects a much tougher test this time round given Netherlands defender Van Dijk’s return to full fitness.
“It’s not only (Van Dijk’s) isolated capacity, ability and level of performance, he also makes everybody around him feel more comfortable“, Tuchel said.
The manager also confirmed that Chelsea were in talks with West Ham United over the possible sale of defender Kurt Zouma, who has been deemed surplus to requirements at Stamford Bridge.
“I don’t want to lie to you, there are negotiations between West Ham and Chelsea about Kurt“, Tuchel said. “I don’t know where it leads right now. Both things can happen, that he stays or he leaves“.
West Ham manager David Moyes said on Friday a deal to sign Zouma was close after they had an offer accepted.