Ahead of our trip to Wolves in the Premier League this afternoon, Antonio Rudiger discusses staying focused amid intense speculation over his future and the importance of December in a title challenge…

The Blues head to the Black Country four points off the pace at the top of the Premier League after picking up eight points from the last 15 available, a run that has seen us slip from first to third.

A 3-2 defeat at West Ham featured in that period, our last away outing, and Rudiger is fully aware of how costly lost ground can be over the hectic Christmas schedule.

‘At the moment, there are three teams fighting for it,’ said the German this week.

‘Obviously you cannot win it in December but you can lose it in December so we have to be very aware of that because of the way Manchester City and Liverpool are playing at the moment.

‘It’s very stable, they don’t look like they’re dropping any points but in the Premier League you never know. On our side there’s pressure now because if the gap is getting five or six points then it can be very difficult.’

For Rudiger, an excellent year on the pitch has been punctuated with frequent rumours about his Chelsea future, with his club contract set to expire in the summer. Yet the 28-year-old has developed a thick skin and an ability to shut out the noise in pursuit of football focus.

‘It has been easy,’ he claims of ignoring the chatter. ‘There was also a lot of noise going when the last coach was sacked, a lot of negative rumours and stuff like this.

‘I just kept doing what I’m doing. I don’t get easily shaken.’

The defender has certainly been revived under his compatriot Thomas Tuchel, excelling on the left of a back three in the 3-4-3 system that has become our default over the past 11 months.

‘I would say our relationship is good,’ Rudiger continued. ‘It’s not that he’s hugging me every day because I’m not the type of person that needs something like this.

‘He shows a lot of trust in playing me and it’s just common sense for me to deliver. He opened a new door for me and he’s played a big role.’

Wolves were Tuchel’s first opponents as Blues boss back in January and now stand in our way at a time when rising Covid-19 cases throughout the country have permeated suddenly into football. Just four Premier League matches are scheduled to be played this weekend, with Tuchel’s playing squad hit with four virus absences at the last count.

While the desire to keep football on the agenda remains high, Rudiger’s thoughts turn to those facing the fight on the frontline.

‘First of all, I hope everyone knows their responsibilities and should be careful,’ he added. ‘It’s everybody’s own choice and this is the way it should be with getting vaccinated.

‘I can only speak personally for myself. I know my role and I know my responsibilities so it’s just about taking care and I hope people stay safe. To all the NHS workers who are back now on non-stop work, I give them a lot of strength and hope for better times.’