Chelsea will make up for Euro woe, says Luiz
SUNDERLAND, United Kingdom (AFP) –
Chelsea defender David Luiz insists his team-mates will make amends for their embarrassing Champions League exit when they return to domestic action at Sunderland on Saturday.
The Blues routed Nordsjaelland 6-1 on Wednesday to secure a first victory under interim manager Rafael Benitez, but it wasn’t enough to book a place in the last 16 as Chelsea became the first European champions to bow out at the group stage.
It was another dispiriting blow to Chelsea’s morale after a torrid few weeks, which featured Benitez being repeatedly jeered by fans unhappy with his links to rivals Liverpool as the team failed to win any of his first three matches.
But, although they are out of the Champions League, Brazil star Luiz hopes the dominant performance against Nordsjaelland, and in particular the two goals scored by Fernando Torres, will provide a welcome lift ahead of the Premier League trip to the Stadium of Light this weekend.
“There was embarrassment in the dressing room and also sadness. We won the Champions League last season and to get knocked out after the group stage is a great disappointment,” Luiz said.
“Now we have to look to the future and try to win the Europa League. The manager has just told us to keep working hard because the team deserves to win games.
“It was a great game from all the players with intensity and quality and we scored more goals, so this is good for the future.
“We have a new coach and philosophy and the quicker we get used to it the better for the team.”
Despite Luiz’s confidence, the premature Champions League exit puts even more pressure on Chelsea’s domestic form and Benitez knows he has little margin for error.
Last weekend’s second half capitulation at West Ham prompted reports – later denied by the club – that owner Roman Abramovich was already planning to draft in former manager Avram Grant as an advisor to Benitez.
And the Spaniard must halt a decline that has left Chelsea without a win in their last seven Premier League games or face more questions about his ability to see out the full term of his seven-month contract.
The woeful recent run means Chelsea go into the latest round of league matches in third place but with only goal difference separating them from fifth.
And with Benitez’s side set to miss the following weekend’s fixtures while they are at the club World Cup in Japan, their position could get worse before they face Aston Villa on December 23.
To make the situation even worse, the Blues will be without John Obi Mikel, who has been suspended for three games and fined £60,000 after admitting an FA charge of using threatening and/or abusive and/or insulting words and/or behaviour.
The charge relates to an incident in referee Mark Clattenburg’s changing room after the defeat to Manchester United when Mikel believed the referee had racially abused him. Clattenburg was cleared of any wrong-doing.
Benitez might benefit from comparing notes with Martin O’Neill, the Sunderland manager whose future has come under increasing scrutiny with the Wearside club just one point above the relegation zone.
O’Neill was forced to deny rumours he offered to resign last month as he deals with growing unrest from supporters who have seen their side win just two of their last 22 Premier League games.
The former Aston Villa and Celtic boss remains confident he can turn things around, but acknowledges the frustration of fans.
“The frustration that seems to pervade here is nothing new to me. It’s not surprising either,” he said.
“The football club hasn’t won anything for 40 years and it’s about time we did. They’re frustrated after a lot of false dawns.
“It’ll take us some time to get out of this and be a proper team, but when we do, it will hopefully be worth it.”