David Luiz plays down Didier Drogba 'insult'

 

David Luiz has denied Didier Drogba mocked Benfica during Chelsea's Champions League quarter-final draw.

The Blues' last-eight opponents appear to have taken offence at a video on the London club's official website which some have claimed shows Drogba feigning fear at being paired with the Portuguese giants.

Chelsea defender Luiz last night suggested Drogba was actually reacting to the prospect of facing Barcelona in the semi-finals, insisting his team-mate had not been disrespecting Benfica.

"If people watch the video closely, it's not directed at Benfica," Luiz said ahead of tonight's quarter-final first leg in Lisbon.

"He was talking about Barcelona because Barcelona are a very, very big team.

"Chelsea know how Benfica reached this far. They're a strong team.

"Drogba's character wouldn't allow him to disrespect another team."

Benfica boss Jorge Jesus warned Drogba his side would react to a perceived slight from the striker by beating Chelsea this evening.

Jesus accepted the forward was "probably just joking", but added: "Drogba only knows what he's thinking.

"You have to remember that Benfica and Sporting Lisbon eliminated Manchester United and Manchester City, the two top teams in England, from Europe.

"Any responses we'll be giving to Drogba will be on the field and proving we are better than him."

Chelsea caretaker manager Roberto Di Matteo was also on the defensive last night after Frank Lampard claimed he and his squad were "not as good as we used to be".

The weekend saw Lampard use the Blues' in-house television channel to deliver a withering assessment of their season, which finds them in real danger of failing to qualify for the Champions League.

Di Matteo admitted Chelsea - who are five points adrift of the Barclays Premier League top four - had endured a "difficult" campaign.

Yet, speaking ahead of tonight's game - and with Chelsea England's sole remaining European representative - the Italian added: "Everybody seems to have an opinion, and they have that right, but I disagree.

"I believe in my team, my squad, my players.

"I don't think we're a weak team, not at all."

Meanwhile, Chelsea are considering lobbying the Football Association to bring their FA Cup semi-final forward by 48 hours should they reach the Champions League semi-finals.

The Blues want more time to prepare for what could be the first leg of a tie against Barcelona or AC Milan if they get past Benfica.

Chelsea's FA Cup semi-final will take place on Sunday, April 15, just three days before a potential Champions League clash.

Liverpool will feature in the other last-four FA Cup match on April 14 because they are allowed not to play on the anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster.

Chelsea feel the FA should also be prepared to make a special case for them to play on the Friday night to help them in their quest for European glory.

Di Matteo said: "Absolutely we need it because it doesn't help English teams in the Champions League.

"Benfica played Friday night before our game, so did Napoli before both matches in the last round.

"Their leagues try to give them a lot of help and the best possible advantage.

"We are engaged on this matter, but ultimately someone has to make the decision."

PA

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