Thomas Tuchel has confirmed that he dropped Romelu Lukaku from Chelsea's squad to face Liverpool in order to protect the focus of his players.
The Belgian striker was omitted from the matchday squad for Sunday's crucial game as a punishment for an unauthorised interview with Italian media in which he voiced his frustration towards the club's system and expressed a desire to eventually return to Inter.
Tuchel and those in charge at Stamford Bridge were thoroughly unimpressed with Lukaku's comments and made the decision to leave him out of one of Chelsea's most important matches of the campaign.
"The thing got too big, too noisy, so close to the match, so I decided to protect the preparation for the match, so that is why he is out," Tuchel said of Lukaku's absence ahead of the game.
"Of course we have spoken, twice to the main players, but after that we had to realise it was too close to the match, it’s too big.
"We delayed the decision over what to do, but while we are delaying we have to protect the preparation for the match, we have a big game to play.
"Full focus, which is hard to get even without this, was easier in my opinion if he is not in the squad, and that is why we did it. It was a difficult decision, but in my opinion it was the decision to take."
In Lukaku's absence, Kai Havertz returns to the starting lineup and joins Christian Pulisic at the top of Chelsea's attack.
"I cannot really say [how strong the team is] because it's always a bit of a gamble what we do right now, because we come from injuries, we come from Covid," Tuchel continued. "We have players struggling, we have kind of an overload and a tight schedule.
"So I think we are pretty strong to start. Let's see how much legs we have, how much fuel we have.
"We need the good energy in the stadium, we need the momentum, we need support from the spectators in every single minute because it's a big match of football against a tough opponent."