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Football: A tale of two misfiring No. 9s - Alvaro Morata and Romelu Lukaku

Alvaro Morata (far left) and Romelu Lukaku have both started well at their new clubs, Chelsea and Manchester United respectively, but are now struggling for goals.
Alvaro Morata (above) and Romelu Lukaku have both started well at their new clubs, Chelsea and Manchester United respectively, but are now struggling for goals.PHOTOS: REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Alvaro Morata (far left) and Romelu Lukaku have both started well at their new clubs, Chelsea and Manchester United respectively, but are now struggling for goals.
Alvaro Morata and (above) Romelu Lukaku have both started well at their new clubs, Chelsea and Manchester United respectively, but are now struggling for goals.PHOTOS: REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Pressure on Chelsea's Morata and United's Lukaku to end six-match barren spell

LONDON • All eyes will be on Alvaro Morata and Romelu Lukaku, who have lost their Midas touch at the wrong moment, when the misfiring strikers clash in Chelsea's showdown with Manchester United today.

Chelsea forward Morata and United front man Lukaku were the toast of their clubs after celebrating their close-season transfers with a barrage of goals.

But they have not scored in their last six matches and, with Chelsea and United battling to keep pace with leaders Manchester City, Morata and Lukaku are under the pressure to end their barren spells at Stamford Bridge today.

United splashed out £75 million (S$134 million) to sign Lukaku from Everton after manager Jose Mourinho persuaded the Belgium international to snub interest from Blues boss Antonio Conte.

After missing out on Lukaku, Conte settled for Morata as an expensive consolation prize. Morata hit the ground running with seven goals in 11 appearances following his club-record £58 million move from Real Madrid.

But the 25-year-old Spaniard has failed to score in his last six games, earning criticism for some lethargic displays.

Morata also had to claim he had been misquoted after an interview in which he appeared to hint that he wouldn't stay with Chelsea for long because he doesn't enjoy London's hectic lifestyle.

  • Alvaro Morata

  • GOALS

    EPL:

    CHAMPIONS LEAGUE:

    ASSISTS 

    APPEARANCES: 11

    MINUTES PLAYED: 879

    SHOTS PER GAME: 3.1

    PASS SUCCESS RATE: 70.8%

    AERIAL DUELS WON PER GAME: 1.3

Former United defender Rio Ferdinand has backed Morata to find his scoring boots and warned United that they will have to be at their best if they want to keep the Spaniard quiet.

"He scores a variety of goals. He has very good movement. He ghosts into positions and he knows where to be," Ferdinand told BT Sport. "He knows what he is good at. He can get across defenders and make runs into the box. He has settled in very well."

Like Morata, Lukaku was off to a fast start, netting 10 times in 14 appearances. However, the 24-year-old has not found the net in six games stretching back to the end of September.

United fans have grown frustrated by Lukaku's lack of contribution outside the penalty area, prompting Mourinho to declare his first-choice striker "untouchable" from fan criticism, but then intervened to stop him taking a penalty against Benfica in the Champions League 2-0 win in midweek.

The former Chelsea hitman responded to the doubters by admitting he is still a work in progress.

"You can't judge me as the finished article. I'd rather have a career where year after year I improve rather than going to the top and decline," he said.

"I know I have a lot of talent but I want to have more assists, I want to make sure when my team are in difficulty, they can count on me."

Former Chelsea striker Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink believes Lukaku needs to be "mentally strong" if he is to come through the first blip of his United career.

"Lukaku is a magnificent striker but he's going to have difficult times and it's important people are backing him, cheering him on, making him feel he's wanted," Dutchman Hasselbaink told Press Association Sport.

"That kind of thing is important as a striker, especially when you sign for a fee like £75 million, especially when you play for a big club like Manchester United.

  • Romelu Lukaku

  • 10 

    GOALS 

    EPL:

    CHAMPIONS LEAGUE:

    ASSISTS 

    APPEARANCES: 14

    MINUTES PLAYED: 1,260

    SHOTS PER GAME: 3.6

    PASS SUCCESS RATE: 69.8%

    AERIAL DUELS WON PER GAME: 3.2

"You have to be mentally strong because you're going to have a period when things are not going for you.

"That doesn't mean you're a bad player or that all of a sudden you're not worth the money or you can't do it any more, it's just how it is.

"But you are the only one who can get yourself out of it.

"The ball will go in again, but he has to be strong minded because you're always under pressure at Manchester United."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 05, 2017, with the headline 'Tale of 2 misfiring strikers'. Print Edition | Subscribe