Europe: Giroud double settles Milan derby

Olivier Giroud again showed why he can never be written off, scoring two late goals as AC Milan rallied to beat rivals Inter Milan 2-1 and reignite the Serie A title race.

Milan moved one point behind the defending champions and leaders with victory, although Inter have played one game fewer.

Midfielder Ivan Perisic put Inter ahead when he volleyed in from just inside the penalty area in the 39th minute from a corner.

Simone Inzaghi’s side looked in comfortable control until Giroud – France’s second all-time leading scorer with 46 goals – equalised 15 minutes from time.

Four minutes later, Giroud produced a superb flick with his right foot to spin around his marker inside the area, before curling the ball under the body of goalkeeper Samir Handanovic with his left.

He jumped into the arms of coach Stefano Pioli after the final whistle, his name written alongside other match-winners at the Derby della Madonnina.

Milan finished with 10 players after left-back Theo Hernandez was sent off in the fifth minute of injury time, and Inter coach Simone Inzaghi will have regrets.

His side could have been well ahead, but Milan goalkeeper Mike Maignan showed just why he is pushing to become France’s No 1 at the World Cup in Qatar later this year.

He made a fine reflex save to keep out Marcelo Brozovic’s deflected 20-yard shot, then another stop from Denzel Dumfries’ low strike.

After Handanovic launched himself to the left to keep out Sandro Tonali’s thunderous strike from 25 metres out 10 minutes before half-time, Maignan thwarted Lautaro Martinez at the other end.

Ivan Perisic had earlier given Inter the lead at the San Siro
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Ivan Perisic had earlier given Inter the lead at the San Siro

He was beaten when Perisic put the ball beyond his reach from former Milan midfielder Hakan Calhanoglu’s corner.

But after Calhanoglu latched onto Brozovic’s superb pass in first-half injury time, as Inter again attacked down the left flank, Maignan showed brilliant judgment to rush off his line and make a sliding tackle.

Elsewhere, Fiorentina hosted Lazio with both sides sitting on the same points tally and needing a win to level with sixth-place Roma, who had earlier drawn 0-0 at home to struggling Genoa.

Roma midfielder Nicolo Zaniolo wheeled away in delight and tore off his shirt after drilling in a last-minute shot, but then was sent off for protesting to referee Rosario Abisso after his effort was disallowed following a VAR review. It showed a clear foul by Roma striker Tammy Abraham on a defender moments before the goal.

Genoa had defender Leo Ostigard sent off in the 68th minute for grabbing forward Felix Afena-Gyan around the neck and dragging him down.

Bundesliga: Lewandowski back in goals as Bayern extend lead

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Highlights of the Bundesliga match between Bayern Munich and RB Leipzig

Robert Lewandowski ended his one-game scoring drought as his 24th goal in 21 games helped Bayern Munich stretch their Bundesliga lead to nine points with a 3-2 win over visiting RB Leipzig.

The prolific Lewandowski, who hadn’t scored in the 4-1 win at Hertha Berlin before the international break, met Kingsley Coman’s precise cross with a thumping header to give Bayern a 2-1 lead over Leipzig before the break.

Thomas Muller opened the scoring in the 12th minute, finishing off the rebound after Peter Gulacsi saved Lewandowski’s initial effort.

Andre Silva equalised shortly before the half-hour mark, squeezing the ball over the line after good work from Konrad Laimer and Christopher Nkunku.

Robert Lewandowski returned to the goals as he eyes another record-breaking season
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Robert Lewandowski returned to the goals as he eyes another record-breaking season

Muller had a goal ruled out through VAR for a foul by Lewandowski in the build=up, but Lewandowski atoned by restoring Bayern’s lead a minute before the interval.

Laimer set up Nkunku for antoher equaliser in the 53rd minute with a brilliant through ball on the left. Nkunku stayed cool before shooting through Manuel Neuer’s legs.

Bayern answered again soon after though, when Josko Gvardiol deflected Serge Gnabry’s cross into his own net.

Borussia Monchengladbach’s dismal spell continued with a 1-1 draw at Arminia Bielefeld.

Gladbach at least ended their three-game losing run across all competitions, but coach Adi Hutter remains under pressure with the team just two points above the relegation zone. Bielefeld stretched their unbeaten streak to six games.

Janni Serra opened the scoring in the 19th minute when he eluded three Gladbach defenders and let fly inside the left corner.

The home team were by far the better side until Alassane Plea equalized with a diving header to Jonas Hofmann’s lay-off in the 38th minute.

Bielefeld also pushed hard in the second half, with visiting goalkeeper Yann Sommer rescuing Gladbach twice.

But Gladbach might have grabbed a late winner, with Hofmann in particular failing to make more of some good counterattacking opportunities.

Union Berlin remained fourth despite losing 2-0 at Augsburg in their first game since top scorer Max Kruse the club. Augsburg climbed out of the relegation zone with the win.

Freiburg remained fifth despite a 1-0 defeat in Cologne. Cologne were without coach Steffen Baumgart due to COVID-19, but welcomed back 10,000 fans.

Ajdin Hrustic’s second goal proved to be the winner for Eintracht Frankfurt which won 3-2 at Stuttgart, and Mainz beat visiting Hoffenheim 2-0.

Euro: Haaland on target in Dortmund win | Inter leave it late

Borussia Dortmund battled to a 3-2 victory at European hopefuls Hoffenheim on Saturday to close in on leaders Bayern Munich as striker Erling Haaland made it 56 goals in 57 Bundesliga games for the Ruhr valley club.

Efficient Dortmund had only three shots on goal compared to Hoffenheim’s 14 but it was enough for the win that lifted them to 43 points, three behind Bayern, who face Hertha in Berlin on Sunday.

Dortmund, looking to make it three wins out of three league games this year, got off to a strong start and Haaland tapped in for the lead in the sixth minute from Donyell Malen’s first of three assists.

Haaland, who had to be taken off injured in the 63rd minute, has scored 16 times in the league this season. Dortmund defender Manuel Akanji was also injured in the 83rd minute.

Andrej Kramaric’s sensational volley in first-half stoppage time drew the hosts level but the visitors struck again in the 58th minute with Reus completing a quickfire passing move with a deft finish.

Hoffenheim’s afternoon took a further turn for the worse when David Raum drilled the ball into his own net attempting to clear a Malen cutback to give Dortmund a two-goal lead.

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The Good Morning Transfer panel discuss Erling Haaland’s future with Borussia Dortmund and where he could end up, with the club pressuring the forward to make a decision on his future.

Hoffenheim, battling for a Champions League spot this season, got back into the mix when Georgionio Rutter caught the defence napping to latch onto a clever Munas Dabbour chip and slot in, but they eventually ran out of time.

Hoffenheim dropped to sixth on 31 points. Bayer Leverkusen stayed in third on 35 with a 5-1 demolition of Augsburg courtesy of a Moussa Diaby hat-trick while Union Berlin climbed to fourth following their 2-1 win at Borussia Monchengladbach.

It was Gladbach’s fourth straight loss at home, just days after their German Cup exit to second-division Hannover. The latest defeat piles the pressure on coach Adi Hutter, who was already under scrutiny after losing six of the last eight games across all competitions.

Freiburg moved fifth with a 2-0 win over Stuttgart, and rock-bottom Greuther Furth claimed their second win of the season with a 2-1 victory over Mainz.

Serie A: Dzeko header earns leaders Inter win

Edin Dzeko left it late to score for Inter Milan
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Edin Dzeko left it late to score for Inter Milan

A last-gasp header from Edin Dzeko earned Serie A leaders Inter Milan a dramatic 2-1 win over Venezia on Saturday, as Simone Inzaghi’s side moved five points clear at the top of the standings.

The hosts were poor in the opening stages, with Venezia, who were without numerous first-team players after a COVID-19 outbreak in the squad this week, racing into a shock lead through French forward Thomas Henry in the 19th minute.

Inter rallied and got themselves level through Nicolo Barella five minutes before the break, before creating several openings after the interval to complete the turnaround.

A winner looked set to elude the champions as the match entered the dying stages, only for veteran Dzeko to climb highest to snatch all three points for Inter in the 90th minute.

The victory took Inter onto 53 points from 22 matches played, with second-placed AC Milan taking on Juventus at San Siro on Sunday, while Venezia stayed 17th, two points above the relegation zone.

It appeared unclear this week whether the rising COVID-19 cases in the Venezia squad would lead to Saturday’s clash being postponed, but the newly-promoted side managed to put a team together for the trip to Milan.

Their efforts appeared justified as the visitors looked untroubled early on before Henry powered a header into the net to peg Inter back.

Other than a Lautaro Martinez overhead kick midway through the first half that just missed the target, Inter offered little threat until Barella was on hand to score his second league goal of the season, reacting quickest after Ivan Perisic’s effort had been saved.

Dzeko should have put Inter in front early in the second half, but somehow scooped over from only a few metres out.

For all their possession, Inter continued to create little. It was substitute Denzel Dumfries who made the difference, picking out a perfect cross for Dzeko to head home, as the 35-year-old took his Serie A tally into double figures this season in timely fashion.

La Liga: Sevilla frustrated again by Celta

Celta raced into a two-goal lead against Sevilla
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Celta raced into a two-goal lead against Sevilla

Second-placed Sevilla fought back from two goals down but failed to close the gap on La Liga leaders Real Madrid as they were held 2-2 at home by Celta Vigo on Saturday, their second consecutive draw.

Sevilla moved on to 46 points from 22 games, three points behind Real Madrid and six ahead of Real Betis in third. The leaders have a game in hand and will host Elche on Sunday.

Celta burst into the lead shortly before half-time, scoring twice after two defensive mistakes in the space of three minutes, first through Franco Cervi and then Iago Aspas.

Sevilla fought back after the break and drew level midway into the second half, also with two goals in three minutes, with strikes from Papu Gomez and Oliver Torres.

‘Caged lion’ Sanchez wins Inter Italian Super Cup

Alexis Sanchez scored with practically the last kick of the match to help Inter Milan win the Italian Super Cup with a 2-1 victory over bitter rival Juventus after extra-time on Wednesday.

Sanchez’s goal, helped by an error from the Juventus defence, sparked scenes of wild celebration at the San Siro as almost every member of the Inter bench ran onto the field to embrace Sanchez in the far corner.

Lautaro Martinez had converted a penalty in the first half to cancel out American midfielder Weston McKennie’s opener for Juventus in an entertaining game for the first piece of silverware of the season.

Defending champions Juventus have a record nine victories in the Italian Super Cup. But this was the first time since 2012 they qualified for the game as Italian Cup winners rather than league champions after their run of nine successive Serie A titles was ended by Inter and former coach Antonio Conte last season.

Sanchez told Mediaset after starting the game on the bench: “The more a champion plays, the better he is, and he does things nobody else can do.

“Today it was like that. I thought I would start because I was in form, I respect the coach but I was hungry to win… I felt like a caged lion.”

Inter Milan's players celebrate with the Italian Super Cup
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Inter Milan’s players celebrate with the Italian Super Cup

Inter lead Serie A again, 11 points ahead of Juventus, who have had a difficult start to the season.

Inter coach Simone Inzaghi extended his impressive record against Juventus in the Italian Super Cup, having won both of his previous matches in the competition against the Bianconeri when he was in charge of Lazio in 2017 and 2019.

Juventus were without a number of players through injury and suspension, while goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny was on the bench as he has only recently had his second dose of the vaccine against the coronavirus and so was not be able to come into contact with his team-mates until shortly before kick-off because of new rules that took effect in Italy on Monday.

Inter wasted several chances to take the lead in the opening 10 minutes. The Nerazzurri also thought they should have been awarded a penalty when Nicolo Barella was shoulder barged by Giorgio Chiellini but, after a swift check with the video assistant referee, play continued.

Inter Milan celebrate after their Italian Super Cup victory
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Inter Milan celebrate after their Italian Super Cup victory

Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic was so much of a spectator in the opening quarter of an hour that he resorted to doing some jumping jacks in the middle of his own half to try and keep warm on a chilly night at San Siro.

But Inter were made to pay for their profligacy when, following a series of crosses, Alvaro Morata floated the ball back in for McKennie to head into the far side of the net. However, Inter did get a penalty shortly after.

Juventus defender Mattia De Sciglio tried to clear the ball but didn’t realise Edin Dzeko was running up behind him and brought down the Inter forward. Martinez blasted the penalty into the top right corner.

Juventus almost restored their lead right at the start of the second half but Federico Bernardeschi fired just wide of the right post.

Inter went even closer on the hour mark as Denzel Dumfries header from Hakan Calhanoglu cross appeared to be going in but Mattia Perin managed to palm it onto the frame of the goal. Perin also made a good save to keep out Martnez’s header from close range.

Inter almost immediately took the lead in extra time but Sanchez headed a corner narrowly wide.

Just as the match was heading for penalties, Juventus gifted Inter the winner. Bianconeri defender Alex Sandro tried to chest the ball to Chiellini but gave Matteo Darmian a chance to flick it on for Sanchez to fire home.

‘My heart is not an obstacle’ – Eriksen aiming to play at 2022 World Cup

Christian Eriksen has revealed he is aiming to play for Denmark at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar and says “my heart is not an obstacle”.

Eriksen suffered a cardiac arrest in Denmark’s Euro 2020 group opener against Finland in Copenhagen, and was later fitted with a heart-starting device (ICD).

Inter Milan mutually agreed to terminate his contract last month, with Eriksen unable to play in Serie A with a cardiac device due to Italian health regulations.

The former Tottenham midfielder has not played since the incident, but is confident he is capable of returning on the biggest stage at the end of this year.

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Eriksen wants to return to football – here he is keeping sharp by practising his free-kicks

“My goal is to play in the World Cup in Qatar,” Eriksen told Danish channel DR1. “I want to play. That’s been my mindset all along.

“It’s a goal, a dream, whether I’ll be picked is another thing. But it’s my dream to come back.

“I’m sure I can come back because I don’t feel any different. Physically, I’m back in top shape.

“That’s been my goal, and it’s still some time away, so until then I’m just going to play football and prove that I’m back at the same level.

“My dream is to rejoin the national team and play at Parken again, and prove that it was a one-timer and that it won’t happen again. I want to prove that I can move on and play for the national team again.

“Again, it’s up to the manager to assess my level. But my heart is not an obstacle.”

Where will Eriksen go next?

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Danish football journalist Carsten Werge says Eriksen could return to the Premier League – and suggests Brentford as a possible destination!

Eriksen’s long-term representative Martin Schoots told Sky Sports News last month clubs have been enquiring about his client.

“Christian is doing really fine,” he said. “We’re hopeful he can get back in professional football. There is no reason not to be optimistic.

“He is working really hard, and I’m glad that he was able to do that during the last few months in silence.

“It’s too early to say where Christian’s future lies. Because of special regulations in Italy, which have already existed for decades, the only thing we know for sure is that it will not be in Italy. And it will not be in another continent either, because of family reasons.

“A few clubs have already contacted us some weeks ago. We have to see what the future brings. But it seems bright and that is the most important thing.”

Lukaku to stay at Chelsea after clear-the-air Tuchel talks

Romelu Lukaku will stay at Chelsea following clear-the-air talks with Thomas Tuchel and the striker accepts his controversial interview with Sky in Italy was a mistake.

In an interview with Sky in Italy that was recorded a few weeks ago but first aired last Thursday, Lukaku said he was unhappy with his role at the club and would like to return to Inter Milan in the near future.

But Lukaku now believes he should not have made the comments that led to him being omitted from Chelsea’s squad for the 2-2 home draw against Liverpool on Sunday.

Following conversations with Tuchel, there is now a commitment from all parties for Lukaku to move on from the interview and help Chelsea reignite their Premier League title bid.

But a transfer away from Chelsea has never been discussed and he will not be leaving the club this month or next summer.

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Lukaku told Sky in Italy earlier this month that he was ‘not happy’ with the situation at Chelsea and talked up the prospect of returning to Inter

After revealing he only decided to swap Inter Milan for Chelsea when his request for a new contract in Italy was rejected, Lukaku now insists he wanted to join the Blues this summer and that he was not forced to rejoin the club.

Meanwhile, there is no truth in reports from Italy on Monday suggesting Lukaku is interested in linking back up with former Inter boss Antonio Conte at Tottenham.

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Chelsea’s draw against Liverpool in the Premier League

What did Lukaku say in controversial interview?

In a 29-minute interview with Sky in Italy recorded earlier in December, Lukaku said he said he was “not happy” with his situation at Chelsea, questioned Tuchel’s system and revealed he turned down a move to Manchester City in 2020.

“Physically I’m doing great. I’m just not very happy with the situation, but that’s normal,” Lukaku said. “I think the boss has decided to play a different formation but I have to stick at it and get on with it professionally.

“I’m not happy with the situation but it’s my job and I mustn’t give up.

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Thomas Tuchel said the comments made by Lukaku in a past interview about his place in the squad had not been helpful, but may have been taken out of context

“When I was at Inter, at the end of the first year, I turned down an offer from Manchester City which was higher than Chelsea’s this summer.

“So the second year after we won the Scudetto, I went to speak with club chiefs and asked for a new contract. I did it because I told myself I’m 28 years old, my family feels great in Milan, I still have my flat there, my mother and my son could come and live there and we would all feel comfortable.

“But they didn’t want to extend my contract, the possibility wasn’t there. It was tough for me to accept, because in my head I told myself that I would be able to do a few more years in Milan.”

“In my opinion, there are three absolute top teams in football – Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich. Every player dreams of playing for one of these teams one day. So I thought if I ever had that possibility, I would sign a new contract with Inter and then go there.

“But it didn’t happen, so I told myself that there is only one team where I could possibly see myself – Chelsea. I wasn’t thinking about going there, but at one point they came in for me and so I asked [Inter boss Simone] Inzaghi to leave.

“The fact that they didn’t try to make me sign a new contract bothered me a bit, it hurt me even. If Inter offered me a new contract, I would have stayed 100 per cent. That goes without saying.”

Souness: Lukaku more than crossed the line | Nev: Love story over

Graeme Souness says Lukaku must apologise to his teammates after the comments he made in his Sky in Italy interview led to Tuchel dropping the striker against Liverpool.

However, fellow pundit Gary Neville says an apology isn’t necessary if Lukaku has told the truth – but he must work hard to win back the trust of his manager and fans in what is now “rather than a love story, a transactional relationship.”

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Jamie Carragher, Graeme Souness and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink debate what the next steps are for Lukaku’s redemption at Chelsea after the Belgian was dropped against Liverpool

Lukaku said he hoped to go back to Inter soon because he was unhappy with how Tuchel was utilising him.


Wednesday 5th January 7:00pm


Kick off 7:45pm

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Sky Sports Football HD

Sky Sports pundit Souness described Lukaku’s decision to say those things as “ridiculous and damaging” and backed Tuchel for leaving out the £97.5m forward, despite the enormity of the game.

In the end, Chelsea drew 2-2 with Liverpool – a result which only really benefits Premier League leaders Manchester City.

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Gary Neville says Lukaku should apologise to his Chelsea team-mates for the disruption his recent comments caused to their preparations for the game against Liverpool

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Lukaku was ‘not happy with situation’ at Chelsea

Romelu Lukaku told Sky in Italy earlier this month he was “not happy” with the situation at Chelsea, questioning Thomas Tuchel’s system and talking up the prospect of returning to Inter while he is still playing at a “good enough level”.

The 28-year-old moved to Chelsea in the summer for a club-record £97.5m, ending a two-year stay at Inter which culminated in the club winning Serie A.

Since re-signing for Chelsea – a decade after he initially joined the club – Lukaku has scored seven goals in 18 appearances, but was hampered by an ankle strain before contracting Covid-19.

As a result, Lukaku has completed 90 minutes in the Premier League just once in their last 13 matches – the most recent outing when he scored in the 1-1 draw against Brighton.

“Physically I’m doing great. I’m just not very happy with the situation, but that’s normal,” Lukaku said. “I think the boss has decided to play a different formation but I have to stick at it and get on with it professionally.

“I’m not happy with the situation but it’s my job and I mustn’t give up.”

Lukaku: I’ll play for Inter again

Lukaku swapped Manchester United for Inter in 2019 and scored 34 goals in 51 appearances in his first season in Italy.

The former West Brom and Everton striker then netted 30 times in 2020-21, including 24 goals in Serie A as Inter won their first Scudetto in 11 years.

Romelu Lukaku has urged Inter Milan to accept a transfer offer from his former club Chelsea
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Romelu Lukaku urged Inter Milan to accept a transfer offer from Chelsea back in the summer

In early August, Sky Sports News reported Lukaku told Inter to accept Chelsea’s advances after an £85m bid was rejected.

Chelsea came back with an £97.5m offer and confirmed the signing of Lukaku on August 12, and the Belgian has said he regrets the manner of his departure from Inter before adding he is confident that he will one-day return.

Lukaku added: “I don’t think any of it should have happened the way it did. The way I left Inter and the way I communicated with the Inter fans. I’m annoyed about that because it’s not the right time now but it wasn’t the right time when I left either.

“I always said that I love Inter and I’ll play for them again. I really hope so. I fell in love with Italy.

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At the start of the season Romelu Lukaku said he was thrilled to return to Chelsea

“Now is the right time to talk about it and tell people what really happened, without saying anything bad about anyone, because I’m not like that.

“I want to really apologise to the Inter fans because I don’t think I should have left Inter the way I did. I should have spoken to you guys first, especially after everything you did for me, for my family, my mum, my son. I’ll never forget that.

“I hope from the bottom of my heart to go back to Inter and not at the end of my career but when I’m still at a good enough level to win more trophies.”

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The Athletic’s David Ornstein says Lukaku’s ‘ill-advised’ bombshell interview with Sky Italy has caught Chelsea and his representatives off guard

Lukaku & Tuchel: The timeline as tensions grow

Lukaku was an injury concern after withdrawing from Belgium duty in early October due to “muscle fatigue”, and though he then played 77 minutes against Brentford on October 16 an ankle sprain against Malmo four days later led to a spell on the sidelines.

Before the Malmo match, Tuchel had already said Lukaku was “mentally tired”, blaming a dry spell in front of goal on the fact he was playing too much football.

After six games out, there were then four league matches where Lukaku was in the matchday squad, coming on as a substitute each time – against Manchester United, Watford, West Ham and Leeds – racking up 77 minutes but failing to find the target.

He started and scored in the 3-3 draw with Zenit in Chelsea’s final Champions League group game, but after a brief cameo against Leeds, he then missed three matches due to Covid, against Everton and Wolves in the league and Brentford in the Carabao Cup.

The forward’s first match after his return from Covid was against Aston Villa on Boxing Day, where he came off the bench at half-time to inspire a comeback 3-1 win.

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Chelsea’s win over Aston Villa in the Premier League.

Speaking to Sky Sports after the victory, Lukaku spoke of his frustration at being stuck on the sidelines.

“I think I needed a performance like this today, it has been difficult as every player wants to play,” he said.

“The manager has his reasons but I kept working hard. Today it was good for us to win, and I am happy with my performance.”

Meanwhile, Tuchel said Lukaku’s 45 minutes against Villa went against medical advice and voiced his concerns over whether it would impact the striker’s return to full fitness.

Tuchel said: “He [Lukaku] had a very good performance, he was very helpful, but it’s not fair. He’s not ready for that even if he wants it.

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Thomas Tuchel was hugely frustrated following Chelsea’s win at Aston Villa

“We just put the players in but we don’t know [what the impact is]. He was a game-changer today.

“There is no doubt he is super-important. Romelu will be a key player. Last time he started for us was in October, not because of quality or that we have any doubts we are better without him. He is unlucky to get injured.

“When he was struggling to come back in the schedule we have, he caught Covid. It [45 minutes] was more than the fitness and medical department recommended for him but we thought we could take the risk and be more offensive.”

Analysis: Which change is Lukaku referring to?

Sky Sports’ Gerard Brand

Lukaku’s main gripe seems to be with a “different formation”, but it’s difficult to see which change the Belgian is referring to. When Lukaku joined Chelsea, Tuchel was immediately asked what this would mean for the 3-4-2-1 system that helped them back into the top four and to Champions League glory.

Chelsea's Romelu Lukaku celebrates after scoring his side's opening goal (AP)
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Was Romelu Lukaku promised a certain formation upon signing for Chelsea?

Tuchel said in August: “We now have the chance also to play with two strikers, like they did at Inter with [Lukaku], or to continue with three strikers. We will see now how this works out.”

Was Lukaku promised a consistent strike partner in Timo Werner, someone to drop deep and do the dirty work while he worked the key areas in the penalty area and on the shoulder of the defender? For Inter, Lukaku had Lautaro Martinez or Alexis Sanchez beside him for practically the entire season, but for Chelsea that partnership role is unclear.

Lukaku and Werner have started only five times together this season, and only twice as a traditional front two. In the first of those two games, Lukaku and Werner were isolated in a 1-0 home defeat by Manchester City, and in the second they barely escaped Brentford with a 1-0 victory. Elsewhere, in Lukaku’s absence, Werner has been given opportunities to find form, but hasn’t grasped it, and Tuchel has more than often opted for a front three.

Timo Werner
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Timo Werner and Romelu Lukaku have started together only five times in all competitions

After returning from injury in late November, Lukaku was given only chunks of minutes – eight against Man Utd, 21 against Watford, 45 against West Ham and three against Leeds – opting to play a false nine in Kai Havertz on several occasions.

Tuchel will of course claim he has been protecting his £90m signing on his return from injury, but like any player, Lukaku wants to be on the pitch as much as possible. He said after the win at Villa on Boxing Day: “I think I needed a performance like this today, it has been difficult as every player wants to play. The manager has his reasons but I kept working hard.”

Lukaku: I turned down Man City move last year

Romelu Lukaku says he turned down a move to Manchester City in 2020, and only decided to swap Inter Milan for Chelsea when his request for a new contract in Italy was rejected this summer.

In a 29-minute interview with Sky in Italy recorded earlier in December, Lukaku said he was “not happy” with his situation at Chelsea, questioning Thomas Tuchel’s system and talking up the prospect of returning to Inter while he is still playing at a “good enough level”.

Tuchel conceded the comments are “not helpful” as they “bring noise that we don’t need”, but claimed the striker looks far from unsettled at Chelsea.

In a second part of the interview released on Friday, Lukaku said he decided to stay in Italy last summer and would “100 per cent” still be there if the club granted him his wish of a new deal in the summer.

“When I was at Inter, at the end of the first year, I turned down an offer from Manchester City which was higher than Chelsea’s this summer,” Lukaku said.

“I did it because it had only been a year, it wasn’t the right time to leave and I didn’t want to. I wanted to do something good for Inter, because I have to say that Inter saved my career to some extent.

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Romelu Lukaku told Sky in Italy earlier this month that he was ‘not happy’ with the situation at Chelsea and talked up the prospect of returning to Inter.

“I was in a deep hole at Manchester United, things weren’t going well. I was a big investment for Inter but we did great things together.

“So the second year after we won the Scudetto, I went to speak with club chiefs and asked for a new contract. I did it because I told myself I’m 28 years old, my family feels great in Milan, I still have my flat there, my mother and my son could come and live there and we would all feel comfortable.

“But they didn’t want to extend my contract, the possibility wasn’t there. It was tough for me to accept, because in my head I told myself that I would be able to do a few more years in Milan.”

“In my opinion, there are three absolute top teams in football – Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich. Every player dreams of playing for one of these teams one day. So I thought if I ever had that possibility, I would sign a new contract with Inter and then go there.

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Thomas Tuchel says comments made by striker Romelu Lukaku in a past interview about his place in the squad have not been helpful, but may have been taken out of context.

“But it didn’t happen, so I told myself that there is only one team where I could possibly see myself – Chelsea. I wasn’t thinking about going there, but at one point they came in for me and so I asked [Inter boss Simone] Inzaghi to leave.

“The fact that they didn’t try to make me sign a new contract bothered me a bit, it hurt me even. If Inter offered me a new contract, I would have stayed 100 per cent. That goes without saying.

“Also the fact that I hadn’t won anything in England in eight years there bothered me a lot. So it was hard to turn down the chance to come back here with the team I have supported since I was a child.”

Antonio Conte, Romelu Lukaku
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Romelu Lukaku won a Serie A title under Antonio Conte at Inter Milan

‘Conte was my mentor, now a rival’

Lukaku has been vocal about his relationship with Antonio Conte and repeatedly stated how the Italian tactician helped him develop as a player

Now they are both in London, Lukaku says the motivation of proving himself to his former boss provides him with fresh motivation to succeed in England.

“I speak regularly with Conte, not just about football but life in general,” Lukaku said.

“It hurt me when he left Inter, it was one of the toughest moments for me but I didn’t leave because of him. I knew that we could still win things at Inter with Inzaghi.

“I think Conte at Spurs could do what he did at Inter in Serie A. But he also knows that our Chelsea team is really strong. I see him as an opponent in the league, I never won against him so that’s an extra motivation for me.

“He was a massive influence on my career, he helped me so much on a mental level, he taught me how to be a professional and how to make sacrifices on and off the pitch to be ready for any challenge.”

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The Athletic’s David Ornstein says Romelu Lukaku has shown some ‘naivity’ in his comments about his situation at Chelsea, but does not believe he intended to criticise the club.

‘Tuchel trying to find the right system’

In the second segment of the interview, Lukaku also expanded on his comments released on Thursday where he vented his frustration at his lack of game time up until early December.

The 28-year-old said Tuchel is trying to work him into the Chelsea starting line-up and conceded he needs to be patient to grasp his chance to cement his spot in the team.

“I think I’m in a moment where the boss could play me a little more but I have to respect his decisions, continue to work and wait for my time to come,” he said.

“We’re trying to find a middle ground where we can meet, a system which can help the team perform at its best because right now we’re in a complicated situation.

“The boss made a choice, I have to keep working and at some point we will talk with Tuchel and see how it’s going.”

Analysis: Which change is Lukaku referring to?

Sky Sports’ Gerard Brand

Lukaku’s main gripe seems to be with a “different formation”, but it’s difficult to see which change the Belgian is referring to. When Lukaku joined Chelsea, Tuchel was immediately asked what this would mean for the 3-4-2-1 system that helped them back into the top four and to Champions League glory.

Tuchel said in August: “We now have the chance also to play with two strikers, like they did at Inter with [Lukaku], or to continue with three strikers. We will see now how this works out.”

Was Lukaku promised a consistent strike partner in Timo Werner, someone to drop deep and do the dirty work while he worked the key areas in the penalty area and on the shoulder of the defender? For Inter, Lukaku had Lautaro Martinez or Alexis Sanchez beside him for practically the entire season, but for Chelsea that partnership role is unclear.

Lukaku and Werner have started only five times together this season, and only twice as a traditional front two. In the first of those two games, Lukaku and Werner were isolated in a 1-0 home defeat by Manchester City, and in the second they barely escaped Brentford with a 1-0 victory. Elsewhere, in Lukaku’s absence, Werner has been given opportunities to find form, but hasn’t grasped it, and Tuchel has more than often opted for a front three.

After returning from injury in late November, Lukaku was given only chunks of minutes – eight against Man Utd, 21 against Watford, 45 against West Ham and three against Leeds – opting to play a false nine in Kai Havertz on several occasions.

Tuchel will of course claim he has been protecting his £90m signing on his return from injury, but like any player, Lukaku wants to be on the pitch as much as possible. He said after the win at Villa on Boxing Day: “I think I needed a performance like this today, it has been difficult as every player wants to play. The manager has his reasons but I kept working hard.”

Euro round-up: Atletico stunned by Granada, Napoli shocked

Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone faced increased pressure after the La Liga champions slumped to a shock 2-1 defeat by Granada on Wednesday.

With Atletico having lost four successive league matches for the first time since Simeone took charge in 2011, the Argentinian’s role has come under scrutiny from club supporters and Spanish media.

It took less than two minutes for Joao Felix to fire Atletico ahead with a perfect low shot from the edge of the box, with the goal demonstrating why the fans had been urging Simeone to play the Portuguese striker from the start more often.

But Granada equalised 15 minutes later with a stupendous long shot from Darwin Machis.

Felix desperately tried to score a second goal but he was frustrated by an equally determined Granada, who found the winner midway through the second half thanks to Jorge Molina.

Granada survived a frenzied final 20 minutes during which Atletico desperately tried to score an equaliser without success. It was Granada’s first win against Atletico since 1973, ending a 25-game winless streak.

Simeone’s judgment is being questioned as Atletico’s usually rock-solid defence has now leaked in 22 goals in 18 games this season, with the champions keeping only five clean sheets in La Liga during that time. In contrast, they had conceded only eight goals at the same stage last season.

Atletico sit fifth in the standings with 29 points after 18 games, 17 points behind Real Madrid.

Real Madrid's Karim Benzema celebrates after scoring his side's opening goal Athletic Bilbao
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Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema celebrates after scoring his side’s opening goal Athletic Bilbao

Karim Benzema scored two goals in the opening seven minutes to send leaders Real Madrid eight points clear at the top of La Liga with a 2-1 win at Athletic Bilbao.

Real, who were missing eight players due to a Covid-19 outbreak in the club, stretched their unbeaten run to 15 matches in all competitions.

Benzema broke the 400-goal mark in his professional career with a stunning strike from just outside the box in the fourth minute before adding another just three minutes later when an Athletic defender missed a clearance.

Oihan Sancet stopped Real’s momentum with a sensational goal in the 10th minute. The hosts put up a fight but Real held on to secure all three points.

Serie A – Napoli stunned by Spezia

Spezia celebrate after Juan Jesus' own goal saw them ahead against Napoli
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Spezia celebrate after Juan Jesus’ own goal saw them ahead against Napoli

Third-place Napoli dropped seven points behind Serie A leaders Inter after losing 1-0 at home to relegation-threatened Spezia, who benefited from an own-goal from Napoli defender Juan Jesus.

Napoli were missing captain Lorenzo Insigne, who tested positive for Covid-19, while Spezia did not produce a single shot on goal.

Inter Milan concluded the year with a 1-0 win over Torino to remain top of the league heading into the winter break

Denzel Dumfries scored from the edge of the area, finishing a counter-attack after taking a backheel pass from Edin Dzeko during the first half at the San Siro. It was the third goal in four matches for the Netherlands right-back.

AC Milan midfielder Franck Kessie played a starring role by scoring twice in a 4-2 win over Empoli, leaving the Rossoneri second in Serie A at the midway stage of the season.

The Ivory Coast international was deployed in a more advanced attacking midfield position, and excelled in the role by striking twice before half-time, either side of Nedim Bajrami’s goal for Empoli.

Franck Kessie was the star for AC Milan as they beat Empoli
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Franck Kessie was the star for AC Milan as they beat Empoli

An Alessandro Florenzi free-kick and a Theo Hernandez goal extended the visitors’ lead, before Andrea Pinamonti pulled one back for the hosts from the penalty spot.

Manolo Gabbiadini scored 10 minutes from time to secure a 1-1 draw for Sampdoria at Roma.

Eldor Shomurodov had put Roma ahead eight minutes earlier. Gabbiadini then scored from close range following a corner.

Roma are level on points with seventh-place Fiorentina, who drew 1-1 at Hellas Verona. Gaetano Castrovilli equalised for the Viola with a diving header following an opener from Kevin Lasagna.

Lazio won 3-1 at Venezia despite missing striker Ciro Immobile, who has coronavirus. Pedro, Francesco Acerbi and Luis Alberto scored for the Roman club.

Also, Bologna won 3-0 at Sassuolo with goals from Riccardo Orsolini, Aaron Hickey and Federico Santander. It was the fourth goal this season for Scottish midfielder Hickey.

Ligue 1 – Ramos sent off as PSG salvage draw

Sergio Ramos was sent off for PSG
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Sergio Ramos was sent off for PSG

Mauro Icardi’s stoppage-time strike helped 10-man Paris Saint-Germain salvage a fortunate 1-1 draw at lowly Lorient in a dismal performance.

Mauricio Pochettino’s side, who had Sergio Ramos sent off, have 46 points from 19 games with Nice in second place 13 points behind after a 2-1 comeback win at home against RC Lens.

Third-placed Marseille, who have a game in hand, trail Nice on goal difference after being caught cold at the Velodrome in a 1-1 draw against Reims, Dimitri Payet salvaging a point with a penalty eight minutes into injury-time.

Rennes are fourth on 31 points after a 2-1 defeat at Monaco.

Elsewhere, Montpellier consolidated their fifth place with a convincing 4-1 home victory against mid-table Angers and champions Lille moved up to eighth when Jonathan David’s late goal gave them a 3-2 victory at Bordeaux.

The game between Clermont and Racing Strasbourg was postponed because of foggy conditions.

Euro: Muller, Lewandowski milestones in Bayern win

Bayern Munich’s Thomas Mueller celebrated his 400th Bundesliga appearance with a goal and an assist as the champions crushed Wolfsburg 4-0 on Friday to go into the winter break with a nine-point lead at the top of the standings.

Top scorer Robert Lewandowski also broke the record for most league goals in a calendar year three minutes from the end, volleying in his 43rd for 2021 to better Gerd Mueller’s 42-goal run from 1972.

Mueller opened the scoring, tapping in on the rebound in the seventh minute after ‘keeper Koen Casteels had palmed a Serge Gnabry shot into his path.

He then set up Dayot Upamecano with a clever chip to head in their second goal in the 57th minute, before Leroy Sane curled a superb shot into the top far corner two minutes later to put the game to bed.

Robert Lewandowski celebrates with Jamal Musiala after scoring Bayern Munich's fourth goal
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Robert Lewandowski celebrates with Jamal Musiala after scoring Bayern Munich’s fourth goal

Lewandowski was desperate to end the year on a high after missing out on the Ballon d’Or to Lionel Messi, but first fired over the bar in the 66th minute and was then denied at point-blank range by Casteels with a superb piece of goalkeeping.

But he did not miss from close range in the 87th minute to hand toothless Wolfsburg their fourth consecutive league loss and their seventh straight defeat in all competitions.

Bayern Munich celebrate after Dayot Upamecano's goal
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Bayern Munich celebrate after Dayot Upamecano’s goal

Bayern – chasing a record-extending 10th straight league crown – are on 43 points, with Borussia Dortmund, in second place on 34 points, travelling to Hertha Berlin on Saturday.

The Bundesliga will break for three weeks and then resume on January 7.

Serie A – Inter thrash Salernitana

Ivan Perisic scored early on for Inter Milan
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Ivan Perisic scored early on for Inter Milan

Inter Milan notched a sixth consecutive Serie A victory by thrashing bottom side Salernitana 5-0 to stretch their lead at the top of the standings to four points.

Ivan Perisic headed in the opener before Denzel Dumfries smashed in a second before the break, marking the first time in Inter’s history that they have reached 100 Serie A goals in a single calendar year.

Alexis Sanchez fired in a third before substitutes Lautaro Martinez and Roberto Gagliardini completed the rout to leave the hosts bottom of the table with eight points.

Inter are top with 43 points, four clear of AC Milan in second, who play Napoli on Sunday evening.

Elsewere, Lazio beat Genoa 3-1 with goals from Pedro, Francesco Acerbi and Mattia Zaccagni.

La Liga – Aspas return to guide Celta to victory

Santi Mina scored inside three minutes for Celta Vigo
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Santi Mina scored inside three minutes for Celta Vigo

Back after missing two matches, Iago Aspas scored and played a part in two more goals to lead Celta Vigo to a 3-1 win over Espanyol.

The veteran striker, who missed one game because of suspension and another because of injury, set up Santi Mina to open the scoring three minutes after kick-off.

Aspas doubled the advantage two minutes after half-time when he curled a shot around two defenders and goalkeeper Diego Lopez before the ball went in off the post. It was Aspas’ eighth goal of the season.

Substitute Denis Surez added a third in the 82nd minute after Aspas started a counter-attack before playing the ball wide for Hugo Mallo to assist Suarez.

Loren Moron lobbed in Espanyol’s only goal with an audacious strike from near the centre line in stoppage time that caught goalkeeper Matias Dituro out of position.

Eriksen ‘optimistic’ about resuming career

Christian Eriksen is “optimistic” about resuming his football career and clubs have already been in contact, his agent has told Sky Sports News.

Martin Schoots says the midfielder has been working hard to return to playing after suffering a cardiac arrest playing for Denmark at Euro 2020, and the “future is bright”.

But it is still too early to determine Eriksen’s next move after his contract with Inter Milan was terminated by mutual consent this week, because he cannot play in Serie A with an implanted defibrillator device under Italian law.

His long-term representative Schoots told Sky Sports News: “Christian is doing really fine. We’re hopeful he can get back in professional football. There is no reason not to be optimistic.

Christian Eriksen suffered a cardiac arrest in Denmark's opening Euro 2020 game versus Finland
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Christian Eriksen suffered a cardiac arrest in Denmark’s opening Euro 2020 game versus Finland

“He is working really hard, and I’m glad that he was able to do that during the last few months in silence.

“We had so many requests for interviews, documentaries – all kinds of initiatives – especially from the UK. He is still so popular in Britain and not only with Spurs fans, not only for his fantastic football skills, but also for his social and humble personality.

“It’s still amazing to read in the English press and fan websites that Spurs are looking for what is called ‘Eriksen’s replacement’ two years after he has left. People probably are not aware of it, but implicitly that’s such an incredible compliment.

“You hardly could blame Spurs that they struggle to find a player who has the qualities to become the League’s top assist-maker, helping them to reach three Champions League qualifications in a row and the Champions League final. There are simply not too many of those players, and there is always competition with other clubs to sign them.

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Former England captain Martin Johnson, who is a patron of the Joe Humphries Memorial Trust, says everyone should learn CPR and be aware of the risk of sudden cardiac arrests

“It’s too early to say where Christian’s future lies. Because of special regulations in Italy, which have already existed for decades, the only thing we know for sure is that it will not be in Italy. And it will not be in another continent either, because of family reasons.

“A few clubs have already contacted us some weeks ago. We have to see what the future brings. But it seems bright and that is the most important thing.”