Juventus defender Matthijs de Ligt said Romelu Lukaku’s presence in the Chelsea team will have an impact on Tuesday’s Champions League clash between the two teams.
Lukaku has now been out since picking up an ankle injury during Chelsea’s 4-0 win over Malmo last month.
The 28-year-old has returned to individual training, while Thomas Tuchel previously expected the striker to join group training on Sunday.
However, it remains unclear whether he will be fit enough to start against Juventus. According to De Ligt, this will have an influence on the match.
“The way he plays makes the difference for Chelsea,” the Dutchman said during the pre-match press conference on Monday (via Calciomercato)
“Whether he is there or not will matter, even if they remain one of the strongest teams in Europe.”
Juventus boss Massimilano Allegri clearly shares De Ligt’s view, saying: “Lukaku is a point of reference; without him, Chelsea play with more speed and counter-attacks.
“His presence changes the way the opposition defends.”
Juventus managed to secure a 1-0 win in the reverse fixture in September despite Chelsea’s dominance in the game.
Some Blues fans likely consider it a shock defeat considering Juventus’ underwhelming start to the season.
Allegri’s men sit eighth in Serie A this season with only six wins from 13 matches.
De Ligt, however, argued that unlike in their domestic league, Juventus thrive when playing against top European teams like Chelsea.
“I don’t know if it’s a mental issue. At Juventus, everything is different,” the former Ajax star explained.
“In the Champions League, we met teams that leave space for counter-attacks. Whereas smaller teams [in the league] leave us little space.”