Antonio Rudiger talks fighting for his Chelsea place, life under Thomas Tuchel and facing Newcastle

In an exclusive interview with Sky Sports, Antonio Rudiger reveals how he fought for his place at Chelsea, life under Thomas Tuchel and facing Newcastle, live on Monday Night Football; follow Chelsea vs Newcastle on Sky Sports Premier League and Main Event from 7pm; kick-off 8pm

Antonio Rudiger, Chelsea

All footballers want one thing - to play regularly. But, for one reason or another, this is not always the case, as Chelsea centre-back Antonio Rudiger experienced earlier this season.

"I'm a competitor, I want to play. Obviously it is frustrating and it was the first time in my career that I had this type of situation," he said in an exclusive interview with Sky Sports ahead of facing Newcastle on Monday Night Football.

"I just said to myself 'work, try hard to get back into the first team'. Now I can say I'm receiving the good from the hard work that I did before."

Funnily enough, Rudiger's first Premier League appearance this season was against Newcastle in a 2-0 victory at St James' Park in November. In the previous eight games, he had an even split of being an unused substitute and not being included in the matchday squad at all.

Now, the Germany international has started in seven of the last eight Premier League games for Chelsea, adding to appearances in the FA Cup and Europa League.

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"You just have to get ready," Rudiger explained. "You have to always make yourself available and always be ready in your mindset. Maybe in the future - I hope not, but this is football - someone gets injured and maybe they are going to say your name and you have to be up there and ready.

"This is how I prepare for every game. Although maybe you know you're not playing because you can see it through the training, but in my head, I always prepared like I was going to play so that I'm always ready in my mind.

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"Inside myself, I was always calm and relaxed, I'll be very honest. I was not going crazy because I was not playing at the beginning and when you're not in the squad, you think 'oh wow, what's happening?'

I think we had a little revolution after the 2018 disaster. We are growing as a team but still, Germany are among the favourites. Although we have a tough group, this is the Euros, it’s a tournament so if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best. I don’t go there just to pass the group stage and see what happens – no, we want to go there and do something great for our country.
Antonio Rudiger on Germany's aims for Euro 2020

"But then suddenly I was back in the team and got some games. From that moment on, my head was 'I'm staying here at Chelsea and trying to fight for my spot'. In the last games of Frank Lampard, I was featuring even more.

"Lampard in or out, I would have stayed anyway."

While Rudiger decided to stick with Chelsea this season, his current deal only has 18 months left to run. Could there be a new contract on the cards?

"The thing is I cannot give myself a new contract," Rudiger said. "The talks have to come from the board, from Marina [Granovskaia], I'm very calm when it comes to that."

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'Players have adapted quickly to Tuchel'

Antonio Rudiger, Thomas Tuchel
Image: Antonio Rudiger has started in each Premier League game under Thomas Tuchel so far

It was Lampard's departure almost three weeks ago that paved the way for Thomas Tuchel's arrival. The former Borussia Dortmund and PSG manager is unbeaten in the Premier League so far, winning his last three matches.

Tuchel adds to a growing German contingent at Chelsea, including Rudiger, Timo Werner and Kai Havertz. But for the defender, their shared nationality does not come into his thinking.

"That doesn't do anything because at the end of the day, the job you have to do on the pitch it is not about sympathy, we are professionals, you have to deliver and earn your spot," Rudiger explained.

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Thomas Tuchel says Chelsea will 'give everything' to finish in the top four of the Premier League this season after their win over Sheffield United

"Because of the results, it's been good [under Tuchel so far]. I think the coach knows what he wants. He has a way of playing football and you can see from the games, the players have adapted very quickly to that.

"From every coach, you want him to improve you. I don't want to hear what I'm doing good, I want to hear what I'm not doing good and what I can improve. This is what I want to see from him.

"In general, the whole season, when it comes to defending, compared to other seasons, we did very well. That also started with Lampard and now the coach has a different idea, which is to keep the opponents up in their own half and try to win the ball back there rather than winning it further down in our half."

In Germany, when there was the first lockdown, I said to my brother ‘what can we do to help?’. The hospital where I was born, they asked if I could provide food for them, which I said I would. In Sierra Leone, I bought about 60,000 masks through my foundation there. Also during the second wave, I also paid for pizza for the workers in many hospitals in Germany.
Antonio Rudiger on how he has helped with the Covid response

Although some will not be expecting trophies in Tuchel's first half-season, there are some clear openings for early success. Chelsea remain in the FA Cup and Champions League - with the manager reaching the final with PSG last season - although a push for the Premier League may be a little out of reach.

Rudiger said: "Silverware is in the DNA of the club. They always want us to win trophies so we are still in the FA Cup, still in the Champions League and you never know what can happen in the league.

"But I don't want to start dreaming of something because you have to be realistic. We are in a good way and the next objective in the league is to secure top four. If we do a miracle, we do a miracle but let's stick reality."

'Newcastle always give us a tough time'

Antonio Rudiger featured for the first time in the Premier League this season against Newcastle in the reverse fixture
Image: Antonio Rudiger featured for the first time in the Premier League this season against Newcastle in the reverse fixture

Rudiger will be hoping to extend his run of starts when Newcastle visit Stamford Bridge, live on Monday Night Football.

After a winning drought, Steve Bruce's side have picked up victories in two of their last three games, and Rudiger is more than aware that any team can win in the Premier League.

He said: "To be honest, in this league - especially in this season - it's a bit crazy because everyone can beat everyone. You have to take every game 100 per cent, but we have good momentum.

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"Newcastle always give us a tough time. Even the 2-0 when I featured for the first time in the Premier League this season, it wasn't that easy so I don't expect an easy match now either. For us and where we want to go with the momentum we have, we want to win.

"At the end of the day, every game is special for itself. Newcastle play us, one of the bigger teams, so they are motivated and they have also some quality players, definitely.

"And as you know, in the Premier League, everyone works hard and no game is easy."

It is safe to say that Rudiger is one of those who has worked hard to restore himself into the Chelsea side as they chase a fourth successive Premier League win this weekend.

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