Luiz sets eyes on Europa League
David Luiz insists Chelsea could restore their European reputation in the Europa League following the “embarrassment” of becoming the first Champions League holders to crash out of the competition before Christmas.
Last night’s 6-1 win over Nordsjaelland in their final Group E game proved futile as Juventus won away to Shakhtar Donetsk to consign the Blues to the continent’s second-tier competition for the first time in the Roman Abramovich era.
But defender Luiz declared there was no point “crying” over what was a moment of unwanted history for the club 200 days after the greatest night they had ever known.
And while the Europa League has found itself painted as the Champions League’s ugly sister, it would give Chelsea the chance to briefly hold both titles at the same time.
Luiz said: “The Europa League is glamorous for me. I don’t have this title so I want to win it.
“I look to the Europa League like I did the Champions League because I don’t have this medal.
“We can do great things in this competition.”
The Brazil star – who will miss Chelsea’s first Europa League match after incurring a ban for his latest yellow card last night – added: “You have great games in the Europa League. There are great teams in this competition.
“Chelsea don’t have this competition so they need to win this title.”
That is exactly what Chelsea did in the Champions League last season in ending their agonising wait to be crowned kings of Europe.
Their reign will technically continue until May, but that was scant consolation to the club’s red-faced players last night.
“There was embarrassment in the dressing room and also sadness,” Luiz said.
“We won the Champions League last season and to get knocked out after the group stage is a great disappointment.
“This is a big club and big clubs deserve to play in big games.
“The best games in the world are in the Champions League.”
To make matters worse for Chelsea, their alarming slump in the Barclays Premier League has left them in real danger of failing to qualify for next season’s competition.
Anything other than a first league win in eight attempts at Sunderland on Saturday and they could arrive in Japan for the Club World Cup outside the top four.
Even a victory may not be enough to prevent them surrendering a Champions League spot in their absence, with their rivals all playing another fixture in that time.
Luiz said: “I am sad but football is quick and we have another game in two days and another big competition in one week.
“I can’t spend three or four nights crying – you have to look to the next match.
“We have a difficult game on Saturday so need to change our mood.
“Chelsea need to play in the Champions League every year and the players have this inside our heads.”
Europa League football could make that even more difficult, with the Thursday night fixtures and subsequent Sunday Premier League games regarded by many as a disadvantage domestically.
But Luiz said: “This is a big club. I love to play games. I prefer doing that than training.”
Luiz’s penalty set Chelsea on their way to their biggest ever Champions League win last night, while he also ended the evening in midfield.
Many commentators have called for the outrageously-gifted but error-prone defender to be deployed in the middle of the park.
Interim manager Rafael Benitez revealed he would consider using Luiz there again after what was his first victory in charge at the fourth attempt.
That lifted the pressure on the Spaniard, amid suggestions former Chelsea boss Avram Grant was on standby to assist him or even replace him if owner Abramovich pressed the panic button.
Grant today played down the likelihood of him being parachuted in for the ex-Liverpool manager, who continues to endure jeers, abuse and protest banners from Chelsea fans.
Insisting he had not been offered any kind of role at Stamford Bridge, Grant told BBC Radio Five Live: “What’s important is Chelsea have a manager and the club need to support him and not look for any other things.”
When asked if he would consider working alongside Benitez, Grant responded: “I don’t think it’s the right idea for the moment.”