RAMIRES: RESPECTING THE REDS
Ramires has warned Benfica must be afforded plenty of respect as he aims to overcome his former club in the Europa League final on Wednesday.
The Brazilian spent a year in Lisbon during the 2009/10 campaign alongside David Luiz, and remains friendly with a number of the Benfica side, but will be putting those ties on hold at the Amsterdam Arena as he competes in his first European final.
'I have a lot of affection for Benfica when they are playing in their own competitions, but on the pitch I am a Chelsea player and I don't want to think about Benfica or anybody else,' said the midfielder. 'Before the game you talk to everybody and joke with your friends, you wish them well because they are your opponents, but once you start playing your mind is only on winning the game, you don't remember anything else.
'In this final I will be doing everything I can for Chelsea to win, and it's easy to separate these feelings. Whoever is in your way, it doesn't matter.
'Of course I still have friends like Luisao, Maxi Pereira, Oscar Cardozo and Pablo Aimar,' he continued. 'They're very good players and what I can tell you is they are a very good team, well organised and dangerous. They score goals, don't have a doubt about that.
'In a game like this you have to keep attention on all the 11 players. If you focus on one player who might give you trouble, one of the others could do something special and leave you in a difficult situation. No player wins anything alone, so we have to be at our best throughout the team. We must give them plenty of respect, which they deserve because a lot of them are internationals and they have been playing together a long time.'
We of course eliminated Jorge Jesus's side on our way to lifting last season's Champions League. The Munich final remains a special memory for Ramires, even though suspension prevented him from taking part after picking up a yellow card in the semi against Barcelona. It was a fate awaiting him once more had he been booked in the second leg against Basel this year.
'My only concern was helping the team get to the final,' he smiled. 'It was different this time because I knew if I got a yellow card it would make me suspended, but I didn't take my foot off the pedal. I did everything I would normally do and didn't hold back.
'I wanted to play in the final, but first you have to win the semi. At the end I was quite relieved that I could play in the final though! For the Champions League I didn't know I would be suspended until after the Barcelona game, and watching in Munich was so nerve-wracking.
'It was horrendous. I couldn't sit still. For the last penalty when we won I completely forgot I didn't play, it was an amazing feeling.'
A year on, it is hard to imagine the Chelsea midfield without the energetic, driving Ramires. He admitted it is pleasing to receive such plaudits.
'I am really happy for any recognition,' he said. 'You try to do the best job you can and to be recognised is fantastic. It motivates you more, not that you need more motivation, you don't play for the praise, but when you get it, it makes you feel bigger.
'It is nice to hear from other people you are doing well, that your contribution is good. I am happy if people feel like that, it's the best feeling in the world.'
If he helps his current side lift a European trophy against his former employers on Wednesday, he might reassess that final thought.