If selected, David Luiz will make his 50th European appearance tonight when we welcome Rubin Kazan to Stamford Bridge for the first leg of our Europa League quarter-final, and the Brazilian has stressed the importance of defensive solidity as we look to book our place in the last four.
On 8 March 2007, the defender made his Benfica debut – and European bow – in the last 16 of the Europa League against Paris Saint-Germain at Parc des Princes, coming on as a 33rd-minute substitute to replace Luisao, and as he prepares to hit the 50-game mark just over six years later, the significance of reaching such a milestone dawns on him.
‘If I play 50 games in Europe it will be amazing as there are a lot of players who will never play that many times throughout their careers, so I’m very happy,’ he tells the official Chelsea website.
‘My first European game was my first ever match in Europe. I played for Benfica against PSG and it was a very special game for me.
‘It was a memorable occasion and very eventful. It was my debut; I came on as a sub and helped the team as much as I could. I made some clearances and almost scored, but my shot was cleared off the line.’
After making the switch to Stamford Bridge in January 2011, David Luiz was unable to participate in our Champions League campaign for the remainder of that season, sitting out the win over FC Copenhagen as well as the defeat to Manchester United.
His first taste of European action for the Blues came at the beginning of last season’s tournament in a group game against Bayer Leverkusen, and it proved an occasion to remember, as he opened the scoring in a 2-0 home victory.
‘It was a good goal and an amazing feeling,’ he recalls. ‘It’s very important to play European football because you are playing against some of the best players in the world and teams from different countries.
‘There is a bit of a difference in terms of style and culture. In Europe, each team is different. You can play against a Spanish side, or a Russian side, like we will tonight, and the way they play football can change.’
Tonight’s clash pits us against a team who have already eliminated the holders, Atletico Madrid, as well as a strong Levante side in the knockout stages.
Having had the advantage of playing the decisive second leg at home in the previous two rounds, this time it’s the other way around.
David Luiz is anticipating a tough test, and with the return leg to come in Moscow next week, he knows we will need to secure a positive result in front of our own supporters.
‘They’ve already beaten two good Spanish sides,’ he explains. ‘To arrive at this stage of the tournament they are obviously a very good team.
‘We need to be careful, play an intelligent game and not concede any goals, because that’s very important when you play the first leg at home.’
Monday’s success against Manchester United ensures Rafael Benitez’s side will head into the game confident of taking a lead to Russia, and having tasted success in last season’s Champions League, David Luiz is hungry for more.
‘Everybody’s confident, when you beat a big team like Manchester United it’s good for you mentally,’ he explains.
‘This competition is important for the club, the players and the fans, but it will be a difficult game against a team at a high level.
‘Winning the trophy would give me two European titles, so hopefully we can achieve it.’