Thomas Tuchel felt Romelu Lukaku underlined his importance to Chelsea by playing a starring role in their 3-1 win at Aston Villa.
The striker, whose troublesome ankle injury was followed by a spell in isolation because of Covid-19, returned to action in style.
He came on as a half-time substitute, put Chelsea ahead with a header and won the penalty which Jorginho tucked away to seal the victory – the Italy midfielder’s second spot-kick of the game.
Blues boss Tuchel said: “There’s no doubt that he is super important. Romelu will be a key player – nobody doubts that.
“The last time he started was in October and not because anybody doubts we are a better team with him.
“We put him on the pitch for 45 minutes, which was more than the medical department recommended for him.
“But we thought we could take the risk and be more offensive with him and we’re happy of course that it went well for today.
“Let’s see from now how the reaction is and how he can adapt from here.”
On a less positive note for Chelsea, N’Golo Kante went off after taking another knock to his knee and Thiago Silva was replaced after picking up a hamstring injury.
Both players seem likely to be unavailable against Brighton, although it is hoped that Silva’s substitution came soon enough to avoid a significant injury.
“I guess so. It’s only two days,” Tuchel said when asked if both were doubts for Wednesday’s game.
“It’s very painful for N’Golo in exactly the same spot where he had his injury against Juventus.
“Thiago, it’s a hamstring. Hopefully he went out before it became an injury.”