Rafa Benitez defends David Luiz, claiming the Chelsea defender only uses his elbows to defend himself

Luiz has been one of the best players in the country this season

Rafael Benitez has insisted that David Luiz only uses his elbow to protect himself, and said that his brilliant Brazilian was "miles better" than most Premier League players.

Luiz, who has been one of the best players in the country this season in both defence and midfield, was involved in another disagreement during Chelsea's 1-0 win at Manchester United on Sunday. Luiz appeared to put his arm across his compatriot Rafael, inducing a kick which saw the United right-back sent off.

Benitez said that while some players use their elbows aggressively, Luiz did so only for protection. "One thing is to protect the ball," Benitez said, "the other to hit someone with the elbow. He is trying to protect himself and the ball."

Sunday's spat was not the first such incident Luiz has been involved in this season. In last month's FA Cup semi-final he used an elbow on Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero, which led to the Argentinian's two-footed stamp. In an FA Cup game against Brentford, Luiz concussed Brentford's Jake Reeves with a reckless shoulder challenge.

Benitez admitted that at times Luiz's conduct was not perfect, adding: "It can be a negative, but he can improve it," the Chelsea manager said. "His game has a lot more positives than negatives. He is more mature and he will improve in his decisions around the game."

Benitez was keener to talk about Luiz's successes. "David Luiz is one of the best players in the Premier League, by miles," he said, "miles away from a lot of players and one of the best, without a doubt.

"The good thing about him is that he is really good now. He can do a lot of things, almost everything, really well, better than the majority of players. He is keen to learn. But he is still a young player and doing really well. He can become a lot better."

While Luiz's jovial style is not to everyone's taste – he was seen laughing after being kicked by Rafael on Sunday – Benitez said he was a fun but hard-working individual. "He's a person that likes to enjoy life and a very good professional, working very hard," Benitez said. "He likes to joke because he is a funny person but he can also be very serious, professional, and concentrate on his job.

"I don't see any problem with someone who has a good character but also a good mentality who wants to improve on the pitch."

Luiz has been one of the main successes of Benitez's tenure as Chelsea interim manager, which could end with a triumphant few weeks if his team beat Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge tomorrow night.

Victory would move Chelsea four points clear of Arsenal and six ahead of Spurs, giving them a huge chance of qualifying for the Champions League next season, with Aston Villa away and Everton at home their last two league fixtures.

Chelsea also have a Europa League final to play against Benfica in Amsterdam next week. There are signs of a softening of Chelsea fans' previously highly antagonistic views towards Benitez after recent successes.

"A lot of fans realise the job we're doing," Benitez said, before admitting he would be sad to leave Stamford Bridge. "When you are in a team and enjoying working with players and staff who are really good, and have a really good relationship with them, it's always a little bit sad when you have to go. But it's a part of our job now."

Chelsea's Belgian midfield star Eden Hazard should be fit for the game, having missed Sunday's victory at Old Trafford with a calf injury.

Chelsea report Benayoun abuse

Chelsea have alerted the Metropolitan Police over more anti-Semitic abuse of Yossi Benayoun, this time on Twitter, in the early hours of this morning. The incident comes just weeks after the Israeli midfielder said he had been the victim of anti-Semitic taunts from his own supporters when he came on as a substitute against Liverpool.

Chelsea will feature an enhanced anti-discrimination message in their programme before tonight's Spurs game.

Jack Pitt-Brooke

News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there