David Luiz flying flag for Chelsea and English pride in Europe
David Luiz believes Chelsea can salvage some of the Premier League's diminished reputation abroad by triumphing in Europe for a second season in a row.
If, as expected, Arsenal get knocked out of the Champions League by Bayern Munich next week, it will be the first time there has not been an English club in the last eight of Europe's premier club competition since 1996.
Chelsea, who defied the odds to win the competition last season, are one of three Premier League clubs still involved in the Europa League.But while Tottenham and Newcastle face tough opposition in Inter Milan and Anzhi Makhachkala respectively in the last 16, Rafael Benitez's side take on the Romanian club Steaua Bucharest. And Luiz is confident they will not let English football down.
"It's important to show the Premier League is the best league in the world," said the Brazilian. "The way to do that is to win titles. Last season we did a great job, this season we have another opportunity. It's in a different competition, but we are still here and we have to win this title.
"Big clubs need to win big titles and big games. It can be difficult when you lose because people try to put pressure on us, but we have a great family here and great players. We reply to the pressure out on the pitch."
The build-up to the first leg in Romania's capital has been far from ideal, with Chelsea chief executive, Ron Gourlay, warning Benitez that a top- four finish in the Premier League is a must. Chelsea, who are playing their 50th game of the season this evening, are currently just five points above Arsenal in fourth place and have the distraction of an FA Cup sixth-round tie at Manchester United on Sunday to come.
When asked if he was worried if he could be fired before the end of the season should Chelsea start to struggle to qualify for the Champions League, Benitez said: "It is clear I will concentrate on each competition and approach the next game as the most important one. Now we are here in the Europa League we will try to win. After, there will be Old Trafford and then we will concentrate on what's happening in the League. We know that all the competitions are important and if we finish in the top four everyone will be happy."
John Terry is set to return tomorrow night, while Ramires and Victor Moses are rested. Demba Ba is cup-tied.
Kick-off 6pm, National Arena.
Referee S Karasev (Rus).
Belfast Telegraph Digital