Belfast Telegraph

Fit-again Rudiger ready to stand up as leader to stabilise Chelsea’s defence

The fit-again Germany defender insists he can be the “commanding” presence to shore up Frank Lampard’s Blues backline.

Antonio Rudiger impressed on his return from a pelvic injury in Tuesday’s 2-1 win over Lille (Adam Davy/PA)
Antonio Rudiger impressed on his return from a pelvic injury in Tuesday’s 2-1 win over Lille (Adam Davy/PA)

By Nick Purewal, PA

Antonio Rudiger is ready to stand up as the leader to stabilise Chelsea’s defence.

The fit-again Germany defender insists he can be the “commanding” presence to shore up Frank Lampard’s Blues backline.

Rudiger impressed on his return from a pelvic injury in Tuesday’s 2-1 win over Lille that eased Chelsea through to the Champions League’s last 16.

The 26-year-old had only just beaten knee surgery when he slipped at Wolves in September to sustain a new problem, but is now itching to call Chelsea’s defensive shots.

Asked if he relishes being a leader, Rudiger said: “In my position it is very important to speak, to be loud because I have the whole pitch in front of me and this has always been natural to me.

“I have always, even when I was young, been commanding.

“I see myself as helping the others, as always. As I did in the other years in the team when I played with David Luiz or Gary Cahill.

“I am always loud on the pitch, especially with the young guys because you need to help them.

“There will be a period, that is normal because we are all human, that you will fall a bit, the performances will go down.

“But there especially you need to, and me as the most experienced in the back, need to help those young guys. I’m in for that.”

Chelsea can bolster their squad in January after their two-window FIFA transfer ban was lifted on appeal by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

Boss Frank Lampard is eyeing a left-back as well as a clutch of possible attacking reinforcements, with Chelsea’s transfer funds boosted by netting up to £150million from Eden Hazard’s summer Real Madrid move.

Rudiger’s return to full fitness could ease any need for a new face at centre-back, easing the burden on Kurt Zouma and Fikayo Tomori.

Asked on building a new defensive partnership with Zouma, Rudiger said: “For me, it is just a matter of communication.

“If you don’t speak then things will be a bit difficult but me and him spoke directly and the commands were clear. So it was easier for everyone. That’s just the issue of being commanding.

“To me it doesn’t matter (who is playing). For me, it is just an issue of speaking because if you don’t speak it will be difficult.

“But if you speak to each other it gives you confidence and you give the other one confidence. That makes life much easier.”

Rudiger underwent knee ligament repair surgery in May, only to suffer a pelvic problem on his return in Chelsea’s 5-2 Premier League win at Wolves on September 14.

Lampard has handed Rudiger extended recovery time to mimic a pre-season’s preparation to avoid any further injury issues, leaving the Germany star thankful for his manager’s patience.

“At Wolves it was not really just the slip, I was feeling it during the game already,” said Rudiger.

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Antonio Rudiger had only just beaten knee surgery when he slipped at Wolves in September (Martin Rickett/PA)

“The slip was when I said ‘OK, I cannot go on any more’.

“It was an ongoing thing after my knee injury. It turned out I had a problem with my hernia that’s why everything took so long.

“The coach has let me have a little pre-season, for almost three weeks.

“And I really thank him for that. It was good for the legs but not for the heart! But it was a really good idea from him.”

PA

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