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Benitez: Luiz is one of best in Prem

Rafa Benitez has sought to deflect criticism of David Luiz by describing him as one of the best players in the Premier League "by miles" and saying the game should be more concerned with eradicating dangerous tackles.

• Lythell: Chelsea on brink

The Brazilian defender was initially the source of much controversy as he appeared to smile after Rafael had kicked him in Chelsea's 1-0 win at Manchester United on Sunday. It has since emerged, however, that Luiz was apparently laughing at a jibe comparing him to The Simpsons' character Sideshow Bob from the crowd.

Tuesday's pre-game press conference at Cobham also saw the somewhat farcical scene of a reporter producing a photo of the character to show Benitez. The Chelsea boss, however, was in no mood to laugh about it and pointed to the fact that Luiz laughed before Rafael received a red card.

When asked whether he was aware of the latest 'Sideshow Bob' angle, Benitez responded "I'm aware David Luiz is one of the best players in the Premier League by miles. Miles away from a lot of players, one of the best no doubt.

"I think, talking about that [incident], we are not talking about Chelsea between United, much better than United in three games, two in Old Trafford. I think we did really well, the substitution of Fernando [Torres] was an offensive player on the pitch. Mind games, nobody was talking about mind games after the game and then we start talking about this, I don't agree with that.

"I think David Luiz was laughing because the fans abusing him. After [that] was [the] red card, so was very clear the timing.

"But, if we continue to talk about this, rather than trying to eradicate the bad tackles we see every week, I think we are giving importance to something that is not as important as other things. Still, I don't like this situation. But we are talking about one of the best players in the Premier League.

"Again, I say I prefer to talk about football, tactics or the other things that are normal."

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