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David Luiz welcomes Paris pressure

For Paris Saint-Germain centre-back David Luiz, the keys to UEFA Champions League success are focus, flexibility and finding the right balance as Chelsea FC await.

David Luiz is aiming to repeat his 2012 UEFA Champions League success with Paris
David Luiz is aiming to repeat his 2012 UEFA Champions League success with Paris ©AFP/Getty Images

David Luiz was born to be noticed. His trademark long curly hair makes him instantly recognisable on and off the pitch. It also draws attention to the Brazilian centre-back's style of play.

Capable of thunderous long-range strikes and thrilling ball-carrying forays out of defence, and blessed with a range of passing that allows him to dictate the play from the base of midfield when the occasion demands, Luiz is no old-school centre-half. And at the age of 27, having played for SL Benfica, Chelsea FC, Paris Saint-Germain and Brazil, he has got used to the attention.

Even being drawn in the round of 16 against the team with whom he won this competition in 2012 is unlikely to faze him. He will put himself at the service of Paris coach Laurent Blanc while looking to play his natural game.

"As long as it's positive for everyone I think it's very important [to show your personality on the pitch]," says the Paris No32. "And I try to give a good example, especially for the youngsters, the kids that like us not only for our football but also for what we do off the pitch."

His sense of footballing adventure has endeared him to supporters at all his clubs and he showed his value to Blanc's side in their 3-2 victory against FC Barcelona at Parc des Princes on matchday two. He opened the scoring with a goal most forwards would have been proud of, and was defensively sound too, helping to marshal his young Brazilian partner Marquinhos and restrict the threat of Lionel Messi and Neymar.

While Marquinhos dropped deeper and swept up trouble, Luiz wandered far from his own goal to stay close to his Brazil team-mate Neymar, denying him time and space.

After that result, Paris's football started to flow. A 1-0 win against APOEL FC on matchday four booked them a place in the knockout stage for the third season in a row. Here Luiz could prove all the more valuable an asset, with his 'been there, done that'. "We are having a great Champions League campaign," he says. "But it isn't worth a thing if we don't continue our quest for the title."

His focus now is on winning the UEFA Champions League again. The draw has decreed that he must face his old team to do so this season, but the mood in Paris is upbeat.

As Luiz says, UEFA Champions League glory is something the very best players in Europe dream about. "You breathe it every day. You imagine a final and lifting the trophy. You put all that into practice. The daily dedication, the dedication in every second of your training, [and in] matches, during a year. You give up many things [for that goal]."

Chelsea's roller-coaster ride to victory in 2012 has shaped Luiz's thinking about the game. Paris set up very differently from Roberto Di Matteo's Chelsea, yet Luiz knows there are lessons his current side could apply. "Today I'm part of a team that has a lot of possession," he says. "We love to control the match, but we've already learned that in the future we will face opponents that will have more possession than us and we will have to adapt.

"You never face opponents with the same game plan, with the same quality, so you need to be able to adapt a lot."

His next challenge is to help Paris progress beyond the quarter-finals. In the past two campaigns, they have been edged out on away goals at this stage – by Barcelona in 2013 and against Chelsea in 2014, even though Luiz put the ball into his own net as the English club lost the first leg 3-1 in Paris.

The hefty transfer fees paid as he moved to London and then Paris don't concern him at all. "It's normal," he says. "In every passing year a player becomes more valuable. The market grows, not just in football, but with everything in life. Everything becomes more expensive. The pressure will always be there. When you reach a certain level in football you need to know how to handle the pressure and how to turn it into something good for you."

That ability to cope with pressure will be vital against Chelsea. Luiz believes the French champions have what it takes to shine in the UEFA Champions League. "Without doubt, I came to a club with a marvellous plan, a very big plan – a club that has all the qualities to compete for victory in all competitions."

Champions Matchday is the official magazine of the UEFA Champions League and is available in print or free to download in digital format. You can follow the magazine on Twitter @ChampionsMag.