Rudiger: I am fit and ready to become a Chelsea leader under Lampard

Antonio RudigerGetty Images

Antonio Rudiger is ready to take on a leadership role in a young Chelsea side and says he is fit for the winter run-in after a sustained spell out injured.

Chelsea won 2-1 against Lille on Tuesday to qualify for the last 16 of the Champions League, a game that saw Rudiger return and complete 90 minutes for the first time since April.

The 26-year-old is the most experienced of Chelsea's four centre-backs and his return comes amid an indifferent run of form after the late November international break.

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His return was particularly anticipated with Blues boss Frank Lampard having criticised his defence in recent weeks, and Rudiger is ready to help a young Chelsea side handle expectations.

"I see myself as helping them, as always," Rudiger said at Stamford Bridge. "As I did in the other years in the team when I played with David Luiz or Gary Cahill ... I am 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.

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

"I don't read too much [about fans wanting me back]. That's why I don't really feel the pressure. But it's also good if the people want me back and of course, there is a little bit of pressure. It's good in football when you have a little bit of pressure because then you are ready to perform.

"At the moment, we have to take every game step by step. We are in the top four and we are five points ahead of the fifth-place team. We are in a good position but we need to be aware of performances like Everton and West Ham."

Rudiger's return marked his second appearance of the season but his first saw him hauled off injured at half-time away to Wolves in September.

The Germany international slipped on a metal floor at the side of the pitch during the match and he limped away to complete the half. However, it was a hernia that has kept him out along with a continuing recovery from his long-term knee injury sustained late last season.

Lampard can now count on his defender after giving him a mini pre-season to get ready for a busy fixture period. The Germany international added that he wasn't nervous coming into such a big match in his comeback game.

"Nervous? Not at all. It's not the first time I've been injured for a long time," Rudiger said. "The first time at Chelsea for a long time, but other clubs no. I always came back very good, that's what I do. I had the operation, the surgery.

Antonio Rudiger quote GFX

"You listen to the doctor who did the surgery and you have to be patient and just wait for your time. That's what I did. It is normal, I want to play, but I am not 19 anymore. I deal with that differently. If you are on crutches, then you can’t do anything so you just have to be patient and wait.

"The coach let me have a little pre-season. It was for two and a half, almost three weeks. I really thank him. It was good for the legs but not for the heart so it was a really good idea from him. It feels good.

"It's been a long time, it's been a while now, but I'm very happy that everything went well and we are in the round of 16. I'm very happy. I missed everything as well. It was a good match for both sides. That is why you play football.

"I have to say thank you to everyone - the backroom staff, the coaches for their patience, and also the fans for their patience."

Chelsea will now expect a lot of Rudiger after only gaining four clean sheets in 25 matches in all competitions this season. He admits he isn't fully match fit yet but that he would never say no to Lampard about playing in an upcoming match.

"I hope soon [I will be at my best]! Of course, it makes a difference after a long time injured," he added. "You need some games to come into but if the coach has the intention to let me play then I will never say no if the coach needs me.

"I have to be honest with him as well if I feel all right. Of course, I would do it anytime."