There is little love lost between Chelsea and Tottenham, but David Luiz cannot hide his admiration for the men from White Hart Lane.
Over the next month, a new chapter in the rivalry between the London clubs will be completed. Following their Cup duel at Wembley tomorrow, the sides will fight it out for the Premier League trophy with just four points between them in the table.
Given Spurs are the form side, one might expect Luiz to either be full of fear or animosity towards the major obstacle in Chelsea’s way.
But Luiz told Standard Sport: “For me they are an amazing team with an amazing coach in Maurico Pochettino. They are the best physical team in the League. All 11 players are monsters. I love that team.
“It will be a difficult game for us. We need to be ready to play against one of the best sides in this League. But it was always going to be hard when you reach a semi-final.
“Will we have to be monsters too? Yes. Chelsea also have some monsters and play like a monster like N’Golo Kante. We have different kind of monsters.
“It will be a fantastic game, both clubs are in amazing shape. It will be a top-quality match to watch and you have to play top quality to win.”
In Luiz’s case, that should not be a problem. The derision that accompanied his £34million return from Paris Saint-Germain last August disappeared months ago.
The Brazil international has been one of the signings of the season, which is reflected by his peers voting him into the PFA Premier League Team of the Year.
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In his first spell at Chelsea between 2011-14, there were many games he was sublime as a defender, none more so than the triumph over Bayern Munich in the 2012 Champions League Final.
Yet there were some high‑profile mistakes too and this part of his reputation stuck.
However, Luiz has thrived in coach Antonio Conte’s 3-4-3 formation and even his fiercest critics, like former England and Manchester United defender Gary Neville, have changed their mind. Indeed, now he’s being talked about as the best centre‑back in the League.
“Of course, it’s nice to hear this from players who know their football, have played and won a lot,” said Luiz, who turns 30 tomorrow. “I’m a positive guy and I always imagine the best for me. I’m also realistic. When I came back I knew I was going to play in the most difficult League in the world.
“It was difficult for us at the beginning, but now we, not just me, are playing very well. It’s good to be in this way.
“Of course, I’m happy, but the season is not over. Football changes from one day to the next, so I keep my feet on the floor, stay grounded. I keep my humility.
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“People ask me if this is the best form of my career. I don’t remember the past, I’m getting old! But I do think I’m playing very well. I’m older and have more experience. I am more mature and I am happy with this.”
Clearly, being moved into the middle of a back three, where he has Cesar Azpilicueta and Gary Cahill alongside him for added protection, has helped.
“I am playing in a more tactical position,” he said. “I need to be ready to occupy the space of the others. So it’s more about action than reaction.
“The system is very good because we have the players to fit in their positions. Like you can see that Victor Moses is amazing in his [right‑wing back] position, nobody knew that before. It’s not just about the system, it’s about the characteristics of the players. We have the perfect mix and we are happy with this.”
But there have been signs of weakness in Chelsea’s formation during defeats by Crystal Palace and Manchester United this month.
Conte’s side have not kept a clean sheet in the League since January, a troubling statistic for the Blues as they prepare to face England’s best striker, Harry Kane.
“He is an amazing player, having an amazing season,” said Luiz. “But even when he was not there [through injury], Spurs scored a lot.
“With or without him, it was always going to be difficult to beat them at Wembley.”