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Luiz: We have to impose quality

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Chelsea defender David Luiz. Pic: Getty

Chelsea defender David Luiz. Pic: Getty

Chelsea defender David Luiz. Pic: Getty

CHELSEA will play their 50th game of a dispiriting season tonight in a competition that even the chief executive does not think is a priority.

The Europa League last-16 first leg against Steaua Bucharest begins a week of distractions from the pursuit of the Premier League top-four spot that is, as Ron Gourlay spelt out on a promotional tour of the Far East this week, the club's main target.

But with an FA Cup quarter-final at Old Trafford on Sunday sandwiched between ties against Steaua, and Chelsea only one bad result from trouble, manager Rafael Benitez can ill-afford to take these games lightly.

Despite tensions with senior players, including John Terry, Benitez is committed to rotating his squad and will do so again at the National Arena. The manager realises that every selection is subject to scrutiny, but is convinced it is the only way of navigating the congestion.

 

SUPPORT

He has the support of David Luiz, one of those who can be certain of a place in Benitez's strongest side, who says the players should accept the decisions even if they do not like them.

"I don't feel really good (when dropped)," Luiz said. "Sometimes you can feel bad with an injury or something and you stay out for a problem, or to rest. But sometimes when you stay on the bench and you are fit it is a bad feeling. I don't like it but I understand sometimes you need to play other players.

"You need to understand this is one team. If you want to always play then play tennis or an individual sport. All the players in the world want to play and don't want to stay on the bench, but that is normal."

The Brazilian said the squad players were fully committed to both cup competitions, and hoped to capitalise on any hangover felt by Manchester United's following elimination from the Champions League.

"It's a massive week. It'll be difficult again (against Bucharest). We need to concentrate and impose our quality on the pitch in the game.

"And Sunday is also a massive game, a game everyone in the world will love to watch. I hope we win because this season it's not gone as well for Chelsea as last season, so we need to win the titles we're still in.

"I think it's difficult (for United) when you've been knocked out of an amazing competition like the Champions League. Your confidence is not the same. The happiness inside your heart is not the same.

"Maybe it gives us an advantage. But I know, as well, Manchester United will want to win. They'll play at home but some supporters and some players will be thinking it's not the Champions League so it's difficult to come in with the same form."

Luiz's emergence as Chelsea's best holding midfielder has been one of the positives of Benitez's brief reign, and the Brazilian endorses the view that this is a squad in transition.

 

QUALITY

"This squad has a lot of quality with many expensive players and young talents," said Luiz. "It is easy but the team needed transition. Some of the guys are becoming a bit old so we needed transition.

"Manchester United have nine, 10, 11 guys who have played together for a long time. Barcelona play together for a long time. Real Madrid needed two years until now to start to become a stronger team.

"So this is normal. I trust in this squad and I trust in these players."

Benitez will make changes against the Romanian league leaders, who overcame Ajax on penalties to reach the last 16, with Yossi Benayoun and Marko Marin likely to press for selection, and Terry in line to be restored having missed the league game against Wigan on Saturday.

With his knee still troublesome this may put Terry's selection at Old Trafford in doubt, but Benitez said the players needed to treat all competitions seriously.

"My message for the players is very clear. We have to progress as much as we can in every competition.

"We have two trophies that we can fight for and at the same time we have to be sure that we finish in the top three or four. I think they realise it is important to fight in every competition."


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