Antonio Rudiger is ready to return from the knee injury he suffered in April and could feature against Wolves on Saturday, head coach Frank Lampard confirmed.
Germany international Rudiger needed surgery on the meniscus of his left knee after suffering the injury in a 1-1 draw with Manchester United on April 28, subsequently ruling him out of the final month of the 2018-19 season.
Although Chelsea managed to secure a third-place finish in the Premier League and won the Europa League without Rudiger, their start to the new campaign suggests they have missed his influence at the back.
Chelsea have conceded nine goals in just four matches, with only Norwich City shipping more, and claimed a solitary win in the process.
But having featured in a couple of Chelsea Under-23s games, Rudiger is ready for first-team action.
— Antonio Rüdiger (@ToniRuediger) August 19, 2019
“Rudiger is fit to play,” Lampard told reporters at his pre-match news conference on Friday. “That’s obviously a choice for me [if he starts], but he’ll have an important role because of his personality, character and quality as an international defender.
“We have missed him, as we have with a few more frontline players. It is important as a team, everyone talks about how young we are and becoming, I don’t want a young team for the sake of it.
“I want leaders within that. Rudiger isn’t old but he certainly needs to take on the responsibility of being a leader.
“I see it in his personality that he has. It has to be channelled in the right direction and he can then be very influential for the team and also for the likes of [Callum] Hudson-Odoi, [Mason] Mount and [Fikayo] Tomori. This happens when you become more experienced and he is ready to take on those roles.”
N’Golo Kante remains sidelined, however, having suffered an ankle injury against Leicester City in Chelsea’s second league game of the season.
“[Mateo] Kovacic is fit to play, N’Golo is not fit yet,” he added. “He still has issues with his ankle. The medical team are working with him.
“He is in a transition period and we are trying to get him on the pitch. He is doing some physical work but this game comes too soon for him.
“Hopefully he is close. I don’t want to jump the gun because we are waiting for improvements for that final step to get him where we want him to be on the pitch.
“Hopefully that will be in the next week or so, and again, alongside Rudiger, Willian, Callum and Ruben [Loftus-Cheek].
“They are big players who are really going to up our level because they will compete to play. Pedro is fine too, yes.”