When viewers tuned in to watch Chelsea take on Monterrey in the Club World Championship semifinal this morning, many expected a simple preseason-esque exhibition.
While that's exactly what the tame matchup delivered, it came with an interesting tactical twist that many fans have been pining for—David Luiz was played in midfield next to John Obi Mikel.
Let's take a look at the impact he had.
The Chelsea formation
There have been calls from many commenters on Bleacher Report for Luiz to be tried in this role, and perhaps most prominent in the charge was B/R's Allan Jiang, who has suggested it in almost every article he writes.
This was most definitely a look forward to Chelsea's impending Capital One Cup game against Leeds. Mikel and Ramires are suspended for the quarterfinal while Oriol Romeu is out for 2012 with a nasty injury. Benitez needed to know if he had an option in Luiz, if he needed to change formation or to try a youth product instead.
Grading his performance
Luiz had the best 60 minutes I've ever seen him play in a Chelsea shirt.
Free of responsibilities in the back line, the Brazilian was able to express himself in the fashion he's been yearning to since he arrived at Stamford Bridge, turning creator, hustler and shuttler.
His huge frame saw him drift vertically without trouble, able to dispossess anyone he pleased and move forward with the confidence no one could out-muscle him.
Within five minutes, he had already travelled beyond Oscar and taken a shot from around 22 yards—except this time no one was accusing him of being controlled by a child with a PlayStation controller.
It's also interesting to note that Luiz's recklessness in midfield makes Mikel useful again. The Nigerian holding midfielder does a bit of everything, but sits quite deep and has little telling impact on the game even when Chelsea don't need him to.
Luiz being so explosive brings further value to what Mikel does.
He was Man of the Match despite Eden Hazard's brilliance on the wing and Juan Mata's usual clinical nature, but how would he fare against a more physical opposition?
The final against Corinthians won't be a great test either, as this competition is played at a slower, easier tempo.
The first test will be against Leeds, and that game may dictate whether or not Rafa Benitez chances it against Aston Villa on Dec. 23. Even if he doesn't, just knowing he can play there will bring the Spaniard comfort considering the nature of Romeu's injury.