Chelsea defender David Luiz believes that their squad has the strength in depth to deal with the suspensions and injuries that have ruled out several key players for tomorrow’s UEFA Champions League final with Bayern Munich.
Roberto Di Matteo’s side has been bolstered by the return of Gary Cahill and Luiz to full training after recent injuries. Both look likely to start in Munich with the Brazilian defender believing they can win despite the absentees.
The 25-year-old told FIFA.com: “For sure they are important players as we’ll be missing the likes of [Branislav] Ivanovic, John [Terry], Ramires, [Raul] Meireles and Florent Malouda after his injury in our last game. However I know my team and my team-mates, and we have very good players available to play in Munich.”
Interim manager Di Matteo admitted he has to adapt his side correctly to cope without his missing stars, but feels they will still play an important role. “I only have one shot and with all the problems that we have it’s certainly causing me a headache,” the Italian said.
“I think [John Terry] and the other suspended players will have to support the rest of the team and the squad, and their support will also be influential in the build up, this week and on the day of the game with the experience they have.”
Before the return of Luiz and Cahill, it had looked likely that Chelsea would be forced to to field a make-shift backline, with the likes of midfielder John Obi Mikel touted as a potential candidate to marshal the centre of defence. However Luiz was clearly feeling positive after returning to practice following a month on the sidelines, and geared up for the challenge Bayern pose in his biggest game to date.
“This is the Champions League final, it is always difficult, they are a very good team with very good players and they deserve to be in the final, just like Chelsea,” the former Benfica defender said. “It’s the greatest game in the world for club teams and I’m so happy to play in this final, and hopefully we will come out on top.”
Cahill was similarly upbeat after returning from a hamstring strain which had ruled him out since the semi-final second-leg against Barcelona. “My focus is fully on the game and has been since I suffered the injury,” he said. “We’ve spent every day in treatment trying to get it right, so the work has paid off. I was back on Tuesday so hopefully with this week’s training I’ll be ready to go.”
The England international, who has been selected in Roy Hodgson’s 23-man squad for UEFA EURO 2012, feels the game will cap off an unlikely campaign for him since his transfer from Bolton Wanderers in January. “It’s been a mad season, it’s been fantastic moving here,” the centre-back said. “Obviously it’s worked out really well and I’m out to build my career at Chelsea now. To win the FA Cup and then go into this huge game is really crazy.”
Should Cahill and Luiz complete their return from injury, no-one will be more relieved than goalkeeper Petr Cech. “It’s always good when you have players come back, and playing a final without defenders isn’t a great idea," he said. "I hope everybody from the squad who is available to play will be fit and ready because we’ll need them all.”
Cech believes that the transformation in Chelsea’s fortunes since Roberto Di Matteo took over shows that they can defy the odds and beat Bayern in their own stadium, having looked down and out when faced with a 3-1 deficit against Napoli. “I think this season has proved anything is possible. After the Napoli game I think everybody had written us off but here we are now in the final. Bayern managed to knock out Real Madrid at the Bernabeu, and this time they are at home, so we are still not favourites but it is a condition we don’t mind.”
Having suffered defeat at the hands of Manchester United four years ago, the Czech Republic international is determined not to succumb to the same fate again, but admits Bayern arrive with similar intentions. The Bundesliga side lost 2-0 to Inter Milan in 2010, and having lost out to Borussia Dortmund in the race for domestic honours, they will be desperate to grasp their final chance at silverware for the season.
"In terms of experience both sides go into the game equal as they lost the final two years ago and a lot of players are still there, the same experience we had in Moscow. We had 120 minutes and the penalty shoot-out to win the cup, it didn't happen for us that time. We are once again in the final and I hope this time it will finish in a completely different way.”