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As Thomas Tuchel’s side defeated Aston Villa, the Blues’ record signing came off the bench to score his first league goal since September and win a penalty.

Thomas Tuchel needed a hero after Chelsea’s Premier League title aspirations appeared to be fading in recent weeks. Fortunately for the Blues’ manager and all of the club’s fans, he can now call upon his £97.5 million ($136 million) club-record signing Romelu Lukaku, and the Belgium international proved what a difference he can make when fit and blazing at Villa Park on Boxing Day.

Lukaku was introduced off the bench for only his sixth appearance since mid-October, with the team behind Manchester City by nine points at the start of the game. He had struggled for much of the first half against Aston Villa. Lukaku’s performance could be the impetus for the European champions to get their season back on track, as he headed Chelsea ahead 10 minutes after his introduction before winning a stoppage-time penalty to complete a 3-1 comeback triumph.

Jorginho is the club’s leading scorer yet again this season, after his brace of penalties on Sunday took his tally to nine for the season. Lukaku was brought in to push Italy midfielder Andrea Pirlo off the top of that list, but injury and Covid-19 have kept him out for the majority of the season.

“Hopefully, Jorginho will not be our top scorer at the conclusion of the season!” In October, Tuchel stated. “We like him a lot, and we don’t mean any disrespect to him, but we want our main guys to score on a regular basis, and maybe we can supply and create opportunities for them.”

Chelsea has struggled to create and convert chances during their recent run of only three wins in their past eight league games, and they lacked forward potency in the first half against Villa. Christian Pulisic, who was once again used as a false nine, was mostly ineffective in the first 45 minutes, failing to provide the outlet that Tuchel’s possession-based team requires from their attacking focal point.

Lukaku’s return to the fold will provide anyone inside the club who was doubting Chelsea’s title credentials a timely boost. Lukaku is regarded as a leader in the dressing room due to his status inside the game and his ability to speak six languages.

If he stays healthy, the championship race has a good chance of remaining a three-horse competition.

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