Toni Rudiger is eager to end his first season as a Chelsea player by helping the Blues win the FA Cup, and the defender says we will need to show the right mentality in order to overcome Leicester City in tomorrow’s quarter-final.
The King Power Stadium is the venue for our last-eight encounter with the Foxes, the first meeting between the sides in the competition since 2012 when we beat Leicester, who were then in the Championship, 5-2 at the same stage before going on to lift the trophy.
Antonio Conte’s side have an opportunity to respond following our midweek Champions League defeat in Barcelona, when we performed well for long spells, and Rudiger feels that particular result means tomorrow’s game has taken on added importance.
‘Yes, definitely,’ he tells the official Chelsea website. ‘It doesn’t matter what the competition is, if you have the chance to win a trophy you have to go for it.
‘We want to reach Wembley but before that we must go to Leicester, give it our best and try to win the game.
‘Barcelona is in the past now. We have to look forward. The FA Cup is still on for us, we have to go for it and that starts today.’
Tomorrow’s meeting will be the third of the season between the two teams, with the Blues winning 2-1 at the King Power back in September, thanks to an N’Golo Kante goal against his former club, before a goalless draw at Stamford Bridge in January.
Our record away at Leicester in recent times has been impressive, with four wins from our last five visits, and Rudiger discussed what type of test he expects from a defensive point of view on Sunday afternoon given the qualities of the home side’s attacking players.
‘First of all, it’s going to be a battle,’ he says. ‘Leicester will try to give us a tough time and we will have to be mentally strong but we won’t be looking for excuses.
‘Yes, we played a few days ago and of course there may be some tiredness, but we have to go there and show the right mentality.’
Rudiger’s leadership qualities have been evident both on and off the pitch throughout his first season at the club, with the German defender quickly adapting to a new club, new league and new country.
Given his demeanour on the pitch throughout games, it can be easy to forget the German is still only 25, and he explains why every player needs to lead by example as the season draws to a close.
‘I think now it’s very important, the last two months will be crucial for us and every player has to try to be a leader by speaking both on and off the pitch,’ he says. ‘I just try to be myself, give my best and try to help my team-mates.’
The game against Leicester comes at the end of a week in which Rudiger was nominated for the German Football Ambassador award in his home country, an honour recognising players and coaches for their extraordinary commitment while working abroad.
‘For me it’s nice, a big honour,’ Rudiger acknowledges. ‘But if I’m able to help Chelsea, and my national team, that means more to me than any individual awards.’
Having been backed by almost 5,000 supporters at Camp Nou in midweek, there will be an even higher number supporting Antonio Conte and his side in the Midlands, and Rudiger hopes the team will be able to give them a Wembley date next month to look forward to.
‘Yes, definitely,’ he responds, when asked if he believes the travelling fans can play a part. ‘That amount of people is very big support for an away game and it’s important for us to give something back to them.’