David Luiz is set to play his 50th game of the season (and 248th in his Chelsea career) when he takes the pitch against Arsenal in the Europa League final, on May 29. It will be the culmination of a rather positive season for the 32-year-old defender, certainly a drastic turnaround compared to last season when he spent the majority of the time either on the injury table or in Conte’s bad book, scraping together only 17 appearances (and only 4 after Christmas).
But now, all is quite well with the Geezer. Having played his part in Chelsea getting back into the Champions League after missing it for the second time and three seasons, he was recently rewarded with a two-year contract extension, too. He’s also staying healthy and fit, which unfortunately isn’t the case for a few of his teammates. Guess we’ll just have to win it for them!
“I’m so sad for Callum and Ruben because they are in the best moments of their careers and they have injuries. I’m sad also for ‘Toni Rudiger because he’s injured and I know how much he wants to play a final, but it’s a different moment of his career than the other two so I just wish for the three of them to be good soon — we need them.
“I am comfortable and happy with my team because my team has qualities enough to be there and try and win the final.”
UEFA’s decision to stage this final in Baku, Azerbaijan is not exactly proving to be a popular choice. What it is proving is a logistical nightmare for fans to get to, and neither Chelsea nor Arsenal expect to sell out even half their already meager allocations. Then yesterday it was also confirmed that Arsenal’s Henrikh Mkhitaryan will not travel, with the club citing political and safety reasons related to his Armenian nationality. While the Azerbaijani FA gave assurances regarding his safety, guaranteeing his and all other players’ security, it’s not been enough to change the situation. (Azerbaijan and Armenia have been in conflict over the Nagorgno-Karabakh region for three decades, even before the fall of the Soviet Union, with the fighting and the intensity escalating once again in recent years.)
Neither Arsenal nor Chelsea are expected to boycott the final, despite a few suggestions otherwise, but it’s certainly an unfair and reprehensible situation — not that UEFA seem to care too much.
Eleven days until the Europa League final and what have UEFA done about helping fans get to the game? Or the Henrikh Mkhitaryan situation? They’ve sent a letter. Maybe it could be used as a paper aeroplane.— John Cross (@johncrossmirror) May 18, 2019
For the other players involved, it makes everything just a bit more awkward. It’s supposed to be a day and an occasion about football, not geopolitics.
“I had the opportunity to be there in Azerbaijan, it’s a nice country, [it was] nice to be there playing against Qarabag and we have to respect the decisions.
”I am just here to be a player, not here to be here for something else. We will try to do our best and we have been fighting to be there since the start of the competition I wish to be in Baku so I want to be there now!”
- David Luiz; source: Evening Standard
Time to focus and bring home the trophy!