Romelu Lukaku hopes to start up front for Chelsea at Manchester United on Monday to show Jose Mourinho that he can be the focal point of the Blues’ attack. United striker Wayne Rooney will be the subject of a third bid from Chelsea after the bank holiday encounter at Old Trafford, when Belgium forward Lukaku aims to build on his 17 goals on loan for West Brom last term. Lukaku began the season as a substitute, replacing Fernando Torres against Hull and Demba Ba against Aston Villa, and plans to take his opportunity when it is given. Press Association Chelsea play United, Everton, Fulham and Tottenham in their next four Premier League matches and Bayern Munich in the UEFA Super Cup in Prague next Friday, the match which resulted in the Villa match being brought forward. A second successive victory gave the Blues a head start in the title race, but Lukaku played down the significance of the embryonic table. “We have six (points) out of six and we want to stay at the top of as long as possible, but we have to keep working hard,” he said. “We have a few difficult games coming up but we are ready and if we prepare well, hopefully we can do the job. “The year Manchester City won the title two years ago, Manchester United were many points ahead and City came back. Anything can happen in the Premier League and it is still early at the start of the season.” “I’m getting closer to where I need to be and hopefully also closer to the starting line-up, my main ambition,” the 20-year-old former Anderlecht striker told Chelsea TV. “If I keep working hard, like I’m doing now, showing the talent that I have hopefully I get to start in the next game. Compared to the first year, when I arrived here it was all about learning and taking a bit off all the players, now it’s about starting games.” The physically imposing Lukaku offers a different attacking threat for Chelsea than the playmaking trio deployed directly behind the lone striker – any three from Eden Hazard, Juan Mata, Oscar, Victor Moses, Kevin de Bruyne and Andre Schurrle. Lukaku can hold the ball up, link the play, and occupy the attentions of a number of defenders, rather than drop deep to add to the playmaking congestion. “When you have three players like that behind you, if you come towards the ball it makes one player too much,” Lukaku said. “You need that one guy to go in there, that’s a good thing, that’s what I like. When they go to the ball I’m around to block a defender, flick the balls on or run on at the back of defence.” Lukaku is often likened to former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba, who he used to sit next to in the dressing room on his arrival from Belgium. Mourinho has been wary of the Drogba comparison and Lukaku is too. “There will always be comparisons but I have my own name,” Lukaku said. “I am still young and I can still make my own way.”
SALT LAKE CITY — At Syracuse’s Media Day in mid-October, SU head coach Jim Boeheim thought the Orange were ahead of where they’d been at the same point a season ago. All five starters returned from a Sweet 16 team. Elijah Hughes was eligible, and the freshman class showed promise.Thursday, though, SU’s season ended in the NCAA Tournament’s opening round. Syracuse had gone from ahead of the curve to falling short of the heights it had reached last year.“I think you are always disappointed when you lose in a tournament, if you think you had a chance to win,” Boeheim said. “We obviously had a chance to win the game tonight.”In the NCAA Tournament, seasons can end at the hand of one hot shooting night, much as SU’s did on Thursday. But the final loss alone isn’t what makes Syracuse’s season such a disappointment. The Orange had more talent than last year, but they ended two games and three wins short. They proved they could play with anyone in the country, but they never harnessed that enough. Syracuse didn’t reach its full potential.“We didn’t have the consistency from the beginning,” Boeheim said.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textMore coverage:Tyus Battle ‘isn’t worrying about’ his future right nowSyracuse’s season ends in 78-69 NCAA Tournament defeat to BaylorHot shooting, Elijah Hughes and more takeaways from Syracuse’s season-ending loss Comments Published on March 22, 2019 at 2:19 am Facebook Twitter Google+ All the pieces were in place: A senior point guard in Frank Howard. Potential pros Tyus Battle and Oshae Brissett. A 7-foot-2 center in the middle of the 2-3 zone. Sharp-shooters Hughes and Buddy Boeheim. A do-everything 6-foot-10 Marek Dolezaj.But when SU went to Madison Square Garden in November with a chance at two early-season statement wins, it left with none. Howard was still out with injury, and Connecticut and a then-ranked Oregon handled the Orange. A win two weeks later at then-No. 16 Ohio State with Howard back in the fold seemed to show everything was OK.It wasn’t. Old Dominion and Buffalo beat Syracuse twice in four days, both in the Carrier Dome. That put the Orange at a four nonconference loss mark that had never led to an NCAA Tournament-berth before. A loss to Georgia Tech in the Dome on Jan. 12 made the outlook even drearier.“A lot of times people counted us out certain games,” Hughes said on Thursday. “We knew we had a chance, and we went out and competed.”Then, Syracuse provided again a glimpse at the upside: 95 points at then-No. 1 Duke. Overcoming an early 14-2 deficit to beat the Blue Devils even as Zion Williamson dominated not only changed SU’s postseason resume but appeared to show that the Orange could beat anyone. But though Syracuse could knock off the best, it never did again with consistency.Buddy came into his own in ACC play, and Howard finally found his legs. Wins pretty much only came against expectedly worse foes, though, aside from a win over Louisville on a historically bad shooting night for the Cardinals.“We played pretty consistently in the league,” Boeheim said. “We beat the teams we were supposed to.”Alexandra Moreo | Senior Staff PhotographerSU led Duke, North Carolina and Virginia at halftime all in the span of two weeks. Bad teams don’t lead three soon-to-be No. 1-seeds at the half often. But a team with Syracuse’s potential shouldn’t have blown all three. Buddy said the Orange had “great moments” in those games, but they were too infrequent.Brissett emphasized that the NCAA Tournament, a “new season” with everyone starting with the same record, gave the Orange a stage to show what they could really do. But all Syracuse revealed was that its most consistent identity was inconsistency. Inconsistent by no means equals bad. The highest of highs were glorious. No one else beat a healthy Williamson in Cameron this season, and an eventual NCAA Tournament team in UofL had its worst loss of its season against SU.There was never just one answer, though, for why that didn’t show up more often. Sometimes it was the centers or an inability to rebound. Other times, the Orange couldn’t overcome a slow night from Battle, or they failed to defend the 3-point shot. SU searched for an identity all season. Hughes speculated that it was “heart” in February. That wasn’t enough, though, and Syracuse’s warts too frequently showed larger than its skills.Giving his final postgame press conference of his 43rd season at the helm of SU, Boeheim called the year “solid.” Sure, the Orange overcame a nonconference loss total to get into March Madness that they never had before. But no one suits up to lose in the round of 64.“It just wasn’t the year I think we would have liked to have had,” Boeheim said.It wasn’t the year Syracuse had the potential to have, either.Billy Heyen is a senior staff writer for The Daily Orange where his column appears occasionally. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @Wheyen3.