Rudiger's message to misfiring Werner: You can change everything and be Chelsea hero against Atletico

By Sports Desk March 16, 2021

Timo Werner can transform his season by firing Thomas Tuchel's Chelsea into the final stages of the Champions League.

That is how Antonio Rudiger sees the opportunity for his fellow German, who has struggled to carry over his Bundesliga goalscoring form into English football.

On Wednesday, Werner looks set to face Atletico Madrid in the second leg of Chelsea's last-16 European tie, with the Blues holding a 1-0 advantage from the first game.

The former RB Leipzig striker, a big-money acquisition last June, has just 10 goals in 38 games of a season when he has repeatedly misfired.

Among players from Europe's top five leagues with 10 goals or more in all competitions, Werner ranks 93rd out of 96 in terms of the most proficient in converting 'big chances', with a 27.59 per cent success rate. He has scored just eight of 29 such chances, defined by Opta as 'where a player should reasonably be expected to score'.

"Of course we have conversations, but it's more conversations to keep him going, to help him," Rudiger said in Tuesday's pre-game news conference.

"It's his first year away from Germany and things are not going maybe the way he wants it, obviously, because he's a scorer. He wants to bag goals and things aren't going in his way at the moment.

"For me it's important to let him know someone's there for him to support him and I'm very, very sure going into this game tomorrow, sometimes small moments like this in a game like that can turn over everything for a striker and give him a real boost.

"Sometimes in life, if things aren't going your way, you have to fight through it, which he is doing in my opinion. He's working a lot and running a lot and I'm very sure things will come his way.

"He needs to be calm and work in silence and, whenever you have the chance on the pitch, to have that hunger to score goals and turn around the situation, but not to make himself crazy, he just has to be calm."

Defender Rudiger is relishing another chance to take on Luis Suarez, whose conversion of 'big chances' has been exceptional this season for Atletico.

The former Barcelona and Liverpool frontman has a 63.64 per cent hit rate (scoring 14 of 22 big chances) from such goal opportunities.

That ranks him second among players from the elite leagues with more than 15 goals of any type this season, beaten only by Manchester United's Bruno Fernandes (16 of 23 big chances for a 69.57 per cent rate).

The first-leg encounter between Rudiger and Suarez was spicy and a reunion could be pivotal to how the tie plays out.

"He is a world-class player, he's showed it at every club he's been at in Europe," Rudiger said.

"He's a very, very good player and has a lot of fight in him and he's a tough opponent but he just defends his badge by trying to fight for his team and I do the same."

Suarez pinched Rudiger on the thigh in a bizarre first-leg incident, which the Chelsea defender put down to "emotions", and said he "didn't really feel it that much".

"Everyone plays a little differently, so it's OK," Rudiger said.

Rudiger also opened up about how close he came to leaving Chelsea last September, when it appeared Tuchel's predecessor Frank Lampard was planning without him.

Paris Saint-Germain - then coached by Tuchel - and Tottenham were heavily linked with him at the time, and Rudiger confirmed both were keen.

"There were two teams - mainly one team - that I was considering. That was PSG, and there was also [Tottenham boss Jose] Mourinho, but this is something that didn't happen," he said.

Rudiger said he was "a bit upset" when neither move came off, but thankful at the same time he was not being pushed out of Chelsea.

"Now things are going well for me, I'm very happy about it, but I always felt well in the club," he said. "No one told me you should leave, the board or Frank Lampard. The loans that I wanted didn't happen but nobody told me at the club I should leave."

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    It comes after Rivers casted doubt over Simmons' future with the 76ers following another failed run at a first NBA championship since 1983.

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  • Uruguay end drought but can't burst Chile's bubble Uruguay end drought but can't burst Chile's bubble

    For a period in the build-up to the 1-1 draw between Uruguay and Chile, it was anyone's guess as to whether the game would go ahead or not, with the Chilean ranks appearing to be in chaos.

    While the Football Federation of Chile (FFC) accepted a group of unnamed players had broken its COVID-secure bubble by bringing a barber into the team hotel, further allegations refused to go away.

    Media reports claimed there was a second breach that revolved around several women being brought into accommodation, and head coach Martin Lasarte was apparently considering resigning over the matter.

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    As it was, three of the Chile players allegedly involved were named in the starting XI in Cuiaba, and perhaps it was predictable – in more than one sense – that one of them put La Roja in front.

    Eduardo Vargas latched on to Ben Brereton's clever first-touch offload and burst into the right side of the penalty area. Having noticed he had no one else in support, the Atletico Mineiro forward lashed a right-footed striker beyond Fernando Muslera and into the top-left corner.

    Vargas wheeled away and, just before sharing a strong embrace with Chile's unlikely new hero Brereton, the goalscorer made a 'talking' gesture with his hand, presumably showing his disapproval of the chatter surrounding he and his team-mates in the last few days.

    In converting, Vargas moved above the likes of Gabriel Batistuta in the Copa America's all-time leading scorers rankings, going joint-fifth with Paolo Guerrero on 14 – the record, shared by Norberto Mendez and Zizinho with 17, is certainly within his reach.

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    Nevertheless, his job was done to a certain extent, Vargas' goal a devastating show of clinical finishing that Uruguay just haven't seen in recent times – and not just in the Copa America.

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    In fact, at the halfway point on Monday, Suarez and Cavani had only managed one shot on target between them in 135 minutes of Copa football – that solitary accurate attempt coming in the first half in Cuiaba as Claudio Bravo made a necessary, albeit expected, block to deny the Atletico Madrid man.

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    It arguably wasn't until the inexperienced Facundo Torres – making just his fourth appearance for Uruguay – came on in the 60th minute that La Celeste started to look genuinely lively in attack, though.

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    As such, it was all hugs and smiles between the two teams at full-time, with Chile and Uruguay well aware that dropping points here won't permanently burst their Copa bubble.

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    Chile claimed a place in the knockout stages of the Copa America despite being held to a 1-1 draw by Uruguay.

    Eduardo Vargas opened the scoring in Cuiaba, but an Arturo Vidal own goal ensured it ended honours even, a result that means Chile can no longer finish bottom of Group A.

    It also helped Uruguay get off the mark after defeat to Argentina in their opener, though Oscar Tabarez's side still have work to do reach the quarter-finals of the competition.

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    The officials also waved away Chile claims for a penalty moments later for the same reason, though Martin Lasarte's side would not be denied for long.

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    And, though Chile subsequently lost defender Guillermo Maripan to injury, Uruguay struggled to create anything of note before the half-time break.

    The second period started in a similar fashion, but Chile's hopes were dealt a further blow when Vargas limped off with an apparent hamstring issue.

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    Boosted by their equaliser, Tabarez's men dominated much of the closing stages, though they were denied a first win of the tournament as an obstinate Chile defence stood firm.

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    They may have been pegged back here, but Chile's unbeaten start to this tournament has been an impressive one and no team will look forward to facing them in the last eight.

    As for Uruguay, they showed the combination of graft and craft that will surely see them come alive should they secure passage into the business end of the Copa America.

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    This is proving to be a breakout tournament for England-born Brereton, who followed up a goal against Bolivia last time out with an assist in this one. Chile are clearly benefiting from his presence as a focal point.

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    Uruguay would have turned one point into three had Cavani followed his partner in crime Suarez onto the scoresheet, but the Manchester United striker failed to even find the target with his all three of his shots across the 90 minutes.

    What's next?

    Chile finish off their fixtures in the group stage against Paraguay in Brasilia on Thursday, while Uruguay contest their penultimate game against Bolivia in Cuiaba on the same day.

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