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

Sport
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Voices
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
Sport
world cup 2014
Sport
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
News
business
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Sport
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
Sport
Germany's Andre Greipel crosses the finish line to win the sixth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 194 kilometers (120.5 miles) with start in Arras and finish in Reims, France
tour de franceGerman champion achieves sixth Tour stage win in Reims
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice