Rudiger breaks down Chelsea’s defensive strengths and hails standard-setter Azpilicueta

Toni Rudiger is a big advocate of the theory that successful teams require unforgiving defences, citing last season’s Champions League triumph as evidence of what can be achieved with resilience at the back.

The German played a big part in our European triumph in Porto, having featured regularly on the left of Thomas Tuchel’s back three following his compatriot’s arrival at Stamford Bridge in late January.

Now, ahead of this evening’s trip to Liverpool and following two clean sheets from two in the Premier League so far this campaign, Rudiger has offered some insight into how the Blues are keeping opponents at arm’s length.

‘It’s important to find the right balance and to keep the game up in the opponent’s half,’ he revealed.

‘It’s not that we are standing in a block. Of course, in some games you will have periods where you stay in a block but it’s about staying active and not too passive.

‘This is what I think we are doing very well because we keep the game in the other half so it’s not easy for them to have many chances on our side.’

Life as a Premier League defender is never easy, full of different challenges and obstacles from one game to the next. For Rudiger, our visit to Anfield presents the threat of Liverpool’s fearsome front three, featuring Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane usually either side of Diogo Jota or Roberto Firmino.

Yet the 28-year-old has been there and done it all before. Back in March, he started alongside Andreas Christensen and Cesar Azpilicueta as we kept our first clean sheet on the red half of Merseyside since 2014 and it’s likely it will be the same trio at the back tonight.

If the Blues can head back down the M6 with another successful shutout, Rudiger will be heading into the international break more than content.

‘Every week is demanding because every team can be a threat,’ he continued. ‘Everyone has their own style and their own way so it’s not an easy job.

‘But we showed last season that our numbers were good and in the Champions League we conceded very few, which was so important. It makes me happy to go home when we don’t concede and it’s the same for all the defenders and obviously the goalkeeper as well.’

If Azpilicueta features at Anfield later, the Chelsea club captain will make his 300th club appearance on what is his 32nd birthday today and Rudiger has lavished praise on the standard-setting skipper ahead of that potential milestone.

‘Azpi is the captain, he won it all here and he’s a role model for all of us,’ he said. ‘He is always someone who’s working very hard so he’s the perfect example of hard work beats talent.

‘For us all, it’s like everyone starts every day on zero. Everyone is ready and eager to give everything in the training sessions. It’s never like people think one day could be a rest day. Everyone is just pushing, pushing, pushing.’

Tuchel’s side will need plenty of push to come away with all three points this evening and, while Rudiger does not believe snap judgements should be made after three rounds of Premier League action, he does feel the contest offers an opportunity for the Blues to test themselves at home of a genuine title rival.

‘Both teams had a good start and having the fans back makes a massive difference, especially at Anfield, but we welcome that,’ he added.

‘After three games, it will be too early to say where things are going for the title race but it’s a good game to see if we can match up with teams like that and I’m sure we can.’

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