Ruben Dias v Antonio Rudiger: Who reigns supreme ahead of Manchester City’s visit to Chelsea


Ruben Dias completely transformed Manchester City’s form last season after sealing a £64million move from Benfica, showing leadership and defensive nous in abundance to lead Pep Guardiola’s men to reclaiming the Premier League title.

The Portuguese defender deservedly won end-of-season awards to vindicate the rave reviews he had received throughout the season, winning both Premier League Player of the Season and the Football Writers’ Association Player of the Year.

A new six-year City contract followed in the summer and having been hailed as having a similar impact at the Etihad Stadium to Virgil van Dijk at Liverpool, Jose Mourinho was left in no doubt as to how vital Dias had been for Guardiola’s side.

Ruben Dias won the Football Writers’ Association Player of the Year award last season

He transformed Manchester City's defence to help the club win their third title in four years

He transformed Manchester City’s defence to help the club win their third title in four years

‘Ruben Dias is the best centre back in the world now,’ he told The Sun shortly after being appointed Roma boss. But it appears now that not everyone is in agreement.

Rio Ferdinand believes Antonio Rudiger is the new best centre back in the Premier League ahead of the Portugal and Holland internationals, with the German having become an influential figure in Thomas Tuchel’s side. 

Rudiger struggled for game time under Frank Lampard and faced an uncertain future at the club as a result, but has bounced back since Tuchel’s appointment for the European champions, who are now desperate to tie him down to a new deal.

Dias and Rudiger will now face each other trying to keep the ball out of their nets when the English champions travel to the Champions League holders in Saturday’s early kick-off. 

But who do the statistics say would have bragging rights in their own individual battle? Sportsmail looks at the numbers to see who comes out on top.

Chelsea and Germany defender Antonio Rudiger

Former defender Rio Ferdinand

Rio Ferdinand (R) believes Chelsea’s Antonio Rudiger (L) is now the best in the business

Manchester City conceded five goals against a Jamie Vardy-inspired Leicester City in their final game before announcing Dias as a shiny new signing.

The 24-year-old subsequently galvanised a team that was struggling defensively and added the steel – imbued with the more technical side of the game his team-mates have come to master over the years – which was necessary to wrestle the title off Liverpool.

Guardiola’s men were also able to win their third Premier League title in four years after conceding just 32 goals last term, unsurprisingly the least of any side. 

Chelsea were their closest competitors when it came to the goals conceded column, letting in 36 goals, but they were made to wait until the final day to scrape fourth spot. 

But the Blues may well have beaten City in that regard had Dias not arrived at the Etihad Stadium to patch up and reinforce a defensive line that looked vulnerable at times when the likes of Eric Garcia and Nathan Ake were at its heart.  

No City player managed to match or better the Portugal international's 23 blocks in 2020-21

No City player managed to match or better the Portugal international’s 23 blocks in 2020-21

Rudiger (centre) has been part of a side that has managed 21 shutouts under Thomas Tuchel

Rudiger (centre) has been part of a side that has managed 21 shutouts under Thomas Tuchel

City kept a clean sheet in exactly half of Dias’ 50 appearances in all competitions in 2020-21, and conceded just one goal every other game on average across the entire campaign with him commanding proceedings at the back.

No City player managed to match or better his 23 blocks or 49 aerial clearances, and he combined that with calmness on the ball as well as an effective passing range, a quality perhaps equally as crucial in a side managed by Guardiola.

But after their London derby victory at Tottenham last weekend, it is now Chelsea’s turn to receive envious looks from the rest of the league – and Europe for that matter – when it comes to their defensive record.

Another shutout at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium means the Blues have now kept more top-flight clean sheets (15) than they have conceded Premier League goals (14) since Tuchel took charge.

Former Manchester United defender Ferdinand claims Rudiger has had an ‘immense’ impact on that return for European champions, but does it surpass the effect Dias has had during his time in English football?

Rudiger had a superior tackle ratio to Dias last season, winning 23 of his 31 tackles

Rudiger had a superior tackle ratio to Dias last season, winning 23 of his 31 tackles

Well, as Ferdinand predicted, there is very little to split the duo when it comes to their numbers in defence, but the statistics imply that even last season, the German may just have had the edge.

Firstly, it must be said statistics have not always reflected the magnitude of the impact Dias has had at City. The Portuguese defender was shockingly ranked as the 74th best player in the Premier League last season when it came to WhoScored’s average match ratings collated over the 38 games.

That would however be an unfair reflection on one of the world’s most renowned centre-backs. What appears certain however is that Rudiger has found another gear as a defender and is closer than ever before – if he hasn’t already – to joining Dias in that category of elite defenders.

Dias made 32 top-flight appearances for City last term, while Rudiger would only go on to make 19. But there are still some areas in which the Germany international trumped his Portuguese counterpart.

In those 32 Premier League appearances, Dias helped City keep 15 clean sheets, but in as many games under his compatriot Tuchel, Rudiger has been part of a side that has managed 21 shutouts, conceded just 12 goals and lost only three matches. 

Rudiger won 23 of his 31 tackles last season, while Dias managed to win just 13 of the 24 tackles he became engaged with. Their returns gave the former a tackle success rate above 74 per cent, while Dias’ came in at just more than 54 per cent. 

The Chelsea centre back also conceded five fewer fouls than Dias, who was surprisingly dribbled past by opponents on 12 occasions last term compared to just three for the German. 

Dias was involved in more aerial battles – 101 to be precise in comparison to Rudiger’s 63 – but the German won nearly 67 per cent of those duels in the air, while Dias won 61 per cent of his. 

But that is not to suggest Dias was undeserving of the individual awards that he won at the back end of last season. His passing accuracy was more than 93 per cent – more than three per cent above Rudiger’s – despite playing more than 1,000 more passes than the German.

He managed nearly double the interceptions and won back possession on more occasions, albeit having played more games. Rudiger may have managed a better duel success rate but Portugal international Dias still came out on top in an unbelievable 111 duels.    

But Dias appears to be the defender who is more comfortable with the ball at his feet

But Dias appears to be the defender who is more comfortable with the ball at his feet

There is obviously less data to go on this season with only five rounds of the Premier League season completed, but it is once more neck-and-neck between the duo.

The former Benfica defender once again comes out on top when it comes to playing the ball out from the back, managing a pass completion rate of more than 93 per cent, while Rudiger’s stands at 84 per cent.

Once more, those figures arrive with Dias having completed more than 100 passes more than Rudiger, but on this occasions the duo have both featured in five Premier League games in 2021-22.

Dias has also managed to recover the ball on more occasions than the German, but the former Stuttgart defender again possesses a superior aerial and duel success rate compared to the Portuguese.

Rudiger was involved in fewer aerial duels than Dias last season but had a better success rate

Rudiger was involved in fewer aerial duels than Dias last season but had a better success rate

His success rate when battling for the ball on the ground is superior no doubt to the pace that he possesses, which helps in recovery as much as anything.

The speed the German possesses was revealed by The Sun last month when they clocked the fastest speeds recorded after three matchdays in the Premier League this season.

Rudiger was seventh on the list, having recorded a top speed of 21.38mph, and Tyrick Mitchell was the only other defender to figure in the top nine, highlighting just what a unique asset it is for the Germany international at the heart of the defence. 

Sofascore however demonstrate how the Portuguese seems to be involved in more tackles, blocked shots, aerial duels, accurate passes and possession-winning moments.

But this must be caveated with the fact that Chelsea have deployed a three-man central defence under Tuchel, with the likes of Andreas Christensen and Thiago Silva also impressing under the German.

Dias has also been superior in terms of blocks made on average per game this season

Dias has also been superior in terms of blocks made on average per game this season

Dias meanwhile plays in a two-man defence and while he has raised the game of John Stones in particular, there is one fewer defender in Guardiola’s system as opposed to Tuchel’s.   

Saturday’s repeat of last season’s Champions League final in the Premier League was always going to throw up a number of mouth-watering battles given the attacking talent on show.

Chelsea and City spent the most on a single signing in the summer, with the former bringing in Romelu Lukaku in an £98m deal from Inter Milan, while Jack Grealish sealed a £100m move to the Etihad Stadium from Aston Villa. 

N’Golo Kante and Kevin De Bruyne are among the world’s leading midfielders and there will be plenty of focus on City’s attack if they deliver another sluggish performance and Lukaku delivers again for the Blues.

But the indirect battle to between Rudiger and Dias had added yet another plotline to an ever-developing narrative to this clash. Whoever comes out on top may well just help decide who takes the bragging rights between the title contenders.

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