Joe Cole says Chelsea have found their own Kevin De Bruyne to give them Champions League edge

Joe Cole says Chelsea have found their own Kevin De Bruyne to give them Champions League edge

Former Chelsea midfielder and BT Sport pundit Joe Cole has tipped Chelsea for Champions League success once again and has pinpointed Romelu Lukaku as the man to help the Blues win their third European crown.

Lukaku, as an heir to Didier Drogba’s throne, will be looking to replicate the night in Munich in 2012 but this time round in Moscow, Russia.

Coincidentally, the west Londoners’ first opponents on the opening night of the competition are from that side of Europe in the form of Zenit Saint Petersburg.

Thomas Tuchel – knowing the perfectionist he is with his management style and competitive edge – will want to get as close to 18 points as possible in this year’s group stages, with Juventus the only team that may make the German boss sweat with their European pedigree.

But one major difference this season for the Blues compared to last is that the west London club now have a clinical No.9 in their ranks with the Belgium international record goalscorer spearheading a lethal and versatile attack that has so far been fruitful for the two-time Champions League winners in the Premier League.

The 28-year-old has scored three goals in three league games, and currently has an xG per 90 minutes of 0.76 which is currently the fifth-best in the top flight of English football, according to FBref.com

Manager Thomas Tuchel has been happy with the start the former Manchester United man has made to his second spell in SW6 and hopes he can transfer what he is doing in the league to the big European stage.

He said in his pre-match press conference ahead of Zenit: “He dreamt about it since being a little boy and now he has the opportunity to come back as the number nine, the go-to guy up front and be the one to help the team with goals.

“He’s not shy of speaking out loud so we are very lucky that we can share the experience with him because he’s a nice guy and a tough competitor.

“We all know how important it is to have a good start for strikers and to not wait too long for their goals so we’re very happy that he helps us with goals and he has this experience so early in the season. Hopefully, he can continue tomorrow to score and be decisive for us.”

Tuchel knows the importance of Lukaku to his side’s chances of defending their crown, and Cole has analysed further the impact of the summer transfer on how it could supplement his former club in the right way during this year’s competition.

As first quoted by The Mirror, Cole said: “Before the season, everyone knew Chelsea were in the market for a No.9 – and realistically, there were only five names who were going to cut it.

“You are looking at Lewandowski, Haaland, Mbappe, Ronaldo and Lukaku, all of them in the very top bracket.

“None of them comes cheap because they are the best in the business, but when you break it down, and look at the attributes Chelsea needed, Lukaku was a great piece of business.

“We’re talking about a proven goalscorer, who is 28 and at the peak of his powers. The complete package – pace, power, great in the air, a finisher, the lot.

“Why did he leave Chelsea in the first place? You can have the same conversation about Kevin De Bruyne and Mo Salah, but there’s no mystery about Lukaku coming back to the club.

“When you are the champions of Europe, to defend your title you need the very best players – right here, right now, not next week or next year.

“You can’t be like Tottenham or Arsenal, taking on players at 21 or 22 and looking to develop them over a few years – Chelsea need that ­firepower now.

“When he looks back at the end of his career, maybe Romelu will accept he wasn’t ready to lead the line for Chelsea eight or nine years ago, and that he needed to make that journey round the houses to release his ­potential.

“But this is the right time for him to take on the responsibility, and he will give Chelsea that extra four or five percent which could help them win the Champions League again.”

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