• 'It's very special to be back,' says Chelsea centre-half
• I've been pleased with defender, says Roberto Di Matteo
David Luiz was welcomed back to the Estádio da Luz as a returning hero at Chelsea's pre-match training session on Monday night though, judging by the Brazilian's testimony, Benfica's support are in for a surprise. "I'm older and wiser, more experienced from the games I've played," said the centre-half, "and I have taken on more responsibility." Frizzy locks aside, the locals' former favourite may be unrecognisable.
The 24-year-old spent four years in Lisbon, claiming the league title alongside his current club-mate Ramires with Jorge Jesus's all-conquering team in 2010, before his £23.5m move to the Premier League midway through last season. Both centre-half and midfielder have offered team-mates and the management an insight into what awaits the Londoners on their first visit to this stadium in the hope that local knowledge provides an edge. More telling must be the pair's contribution on the pitch.
David Luiz's adaptation to the English game, as he has acknowledged, has not been without its hairy moments. There is riskiness to his approach that can leave himself and his team-mates exposed defensively – the tone set on full debut when a rush of blood conceded a last-minute penalty at Fulham – and his desire to maraud forward on trademark gallops can spread as much alarm among colleagues as opponents.
Yet there has been more composure to his game in recent weeks. David Luiz was outstanding against Napoli at Stamford Bridge and impressive again at Manchester City even in defeat last week. He has been utilised at right-back on occasion recently and returns here arguably playing the most composed football of his brief Chelsea career. "He's been very solid," said Roberto Di Matteo, the interim first-team coach. "Over the last six games I've been very pleased with him. I like my centre-halves to play football as well, and would never discourage him. Absolutely not.
"There's a line when you have to make decisions about whether to step out or not, but he's done well since I've been in charge. Remember he's a centre-half for Brazil. With all due respect, he doesn't play for any country with a lower Fifa ranking. He's the centre-half of Brazil and a terrific player. Many managers of many clubs would want a defender like David Luiz in their team. That's what I think about him."
Those sentiments echoed praise delivered by André Villas-Boas through his tenure at the club, the Portuguese having consistently described the defender as "one of the best in the world" even when his style of play meandered into the chaotic. The attack-minded approach is born of a youth spent playing in midfield and, even with Benfica following a move from Esporte Club Vitória, initially as a left-back. Once converted to centre-half he excelled, starting all but one of Benfica's title-winning season, and was named Portugal's player of the year. He is a cult figure cherished by both the clubs that clash this evening.
The defender seemed genuinely taken aback by the welcome afforded him back in Lisbon, even if professionalism will click in on all sides at kick-off. "It's very special to be back," he said. "I had a great time here, from my first day in the media room being presented to the press as a Benfica player, to the last when I stepped on that plane bound for London. My former team-mates are still my friends, and they'll be my mates right up to the first whistle but, after that, I will fight to win. They're a different team now, but the quality is still there." That much is clear, with this occasion to offer a stern test of the new David Luiz.