David Luiz may hail from Sao Paulo but such is the global appeal of the UEFA Champions League that the Brazilian does not hesitate to underline the meaning of appearing in Saturday's final with FC Bayern München. "This final is my dream," the Chelsea FC defender told UEFA.com.
It has been a curious first full season in England for Luiz, a €25m arrival from SL Benfica in January 2011. Though the South American would most certainly have been hoping for his side to produce a higher Premier League finish than sixth place this term – a product of the disappointing run of form that cost coach André Villas-Boas his job – Chelsea have hit a purple patch since, winning the FA Cup and reaching the final of Europe's premier club competition.
Luiz, however, missed out on the Wembley win against Liverpool FC through injury, as he did both legs of Chelsea's memorable semi-final victory against FC Barcelona. The 25-year-old is therefore relishing the opportunity to play in Saturday's showpiece at the Fußball Arena München. "This final is my dream," the Brazilian international said. "A few years ago I dreamt of playing in this final, and now I have the opportunity. I think every player wants this opportunity, and if I have it I need to enjoy this moment."
Few would have given the Londoners much chance of overcoming SSC Napoli, who they trailed 3-1 after the round of 16 first leg, yet they overcame the odds to win the return leg 4-1 before edging out Luiz's former club Benfica. What followed was a herculean feat: lowering the colours of holders Barcelona in the semi-finals despite being reduced to ten men and finding themselves 2-0 down in the second leg at the Camp Nou.
Indeed in an extraordinary UEFA Champions League campaign Chelsea have responded to every challenge, suggesting that Roberto Di Matteo's charges are at their best with their backs against the wall. On Saturday they will once more be cast in the role of underdogs in a final being played on Bayern's home ground, but Luiz refutes any notion that this makes for a stress-free scenario.
"When you play against big teams, you are always under pressure," said Luiz, who has featured in ten UEFA Champions League matches this term. "You have pressure in the first game of the season, and in the Champions League final. Bayern are a big team.
People keep talking about them playing at home ‒ that it takes the pressure off Chelsea a little bit ‒ but the players here know how important it is to win this final.
"After all the difficulties in the middle of the season Chelsea have won one cup and now have the chance to win another trophy in the best league in the world. The players here kept believing in what we were doing, and now they have reaped the results. We have won a lot of fantastic games against Napoli, Benfica, Valencia [to qualify from the group stage]. Chelsea deserve to be in this final."
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