A former Blue has suggested that Frank Lampard’s side are stronger when a Germany international is marshalling the defence

Antonio Rudiger is Chelsea’s “best natural defender”, according to Tony Cascarino, who thinks Fikayo Tomori and Kurt Zouma have struggled to convince in his absence.

Chelsea’s five-match winning streak in the Premier League came to an end on Saturday, as they suffered a 2-1 defeat to Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium.

The Blues started the game well and took the lead through N’Golo Kante, before lapses in concentration at the back allowed the reigning champions to get back into the game.

Goals from Kevin De Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez shortly before half-time ensured City moved up to third, while Frank Lampard’s men dropped into fourth, 11 points behind leaders Liverpool.

Chelsea have now conceded 19 goals in 13 Premier League fixtures, more than any other side in the top six – a record which Cascarino attributes to a Rudiger-shaped hole in the defence.

The former Blues forward has not been encouraged by Tomori and Zouma’s partnership in recent weeks, as he told TalkSPORT: “I think there’s a lot of learning to be done with Tomori and Zouma.

“They’re a partnership that Frank trusts, but there are mistakes there too regularly.

“They’re both young men in the early part of their career, but big clubs don’t allow you to go through this period of indifference.

“They miss Rudiger enormously, because he is their best natural defender.”

Lampard, however, did not feel that problems at centre-back were the main reason for a damaging defeat at the Etihad, with it his belief that a lack of quality in the final third ultimately ended up costing Chelsea a positive result.

“We’ve competed in the game,” he told TalkSPORT post-match. “They’re always going to give you problems here in an attacking sense.

“But we contributed really well, especially in those first 25 minutes. We arrived in their box a lot and looked so dangerous on the counter.

“The biggest disappointment was our final third quality, that last pass and that last cross.

“Those important things win you games and we fell short, hence the result.”

Next up for the Blues is a trip to Mestalla to face Valencia in the Champions League on Wednesday, when a win could be enough to book their spot in the last 16.

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