Tuesday 30 September 2014

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho determined to risk Diego Costa at Sporting Lisbon

José Mourinho has made clear Chelsea’s heavy reliance on Diego Costa by admitting his team are “made to play” with the striker leading the line. 

The forward will start against Sporting Lisbon on Tuesday despite the manager admitting that constitutes a risk given the player’s recent hamstring problems, with the club resigned to losing him to Spain next week.

The manager’s options are limited in Lisbon by the absence of Didier Drogba, the striker having aggravated an ankle injury in training and facing a fortnight on the sidelines, though Costa’s importance to the side becomes clearer with each passing week. The striker has been hampered by tightness in a thigh over the past month and has not been risked from the start in midweek games when he had featured the previous weekend as Chelsea sought to nurse him through his hamstring issues.

The injury had been acknowledged by Spain this month when they released the 25-year-old from the national squad for their opening Euro 2016 qualifier against Macedonia after he complained of discomfort following a friendly defeat by France. Costa was subsequently a substitute for his club’s opening Champions League group game, against Schalke, just four days after scoring a hat-trick against Swansea.

Yet he scored his eighth Premier League goal in six appearances against Aston Villa on Saturday, retiring from the fray nine minutes from time with the hosts 3-0 up, and will start at the Estádio José Alvalade, with Mourinho expecting to losing him for the qualifiers against Slovakia and Luxembourg when he would prefer the £32m forward to have been granted two weeks’ rest.

“Diego starts,” said the Chelsea manager. “I have the feeling that, next week, he goes to the national team. And I have the feeling that, with the national team, they will make no consideration for the fact he’s in trouble. So, in Lisbon, he plays. And, hopefully, he plays Sunday again against Arsenal. There is a risk, yes. But we accept that risk, he plays and, hopefully, everything goes well. Then we hope, from Tuesday to Sunday, he has enough time to be back on track again and play against Arsenal.

“In this moment, if Diego can play, I play Diego. The team had a pre-season with him. The team have worked with him a lot of times. He’s played with us every match in the Premier League so far. So the team, at this moment, is more made to play with Diego. Loïc Rémy’s learning how to play with us – his movement is good, his pace is good, he can get behind defenders and he is not bad in the air – but I would prefer to play Diego.”
Costa had trained at Cobham on Monday morning before the squad departed for Portugal, with Rémy the only other forward in the travelling party. Although Mourinho retains faith in the France international it is clear who is first choice. Other than a 16-minute cameo against Schalke a fortnight ago, the £8.5m signing from Queens Park Rangers has not featured at this level since 2012. “I’m going to start with the team I think is the best team,” Mourinho said. “That gives me also some players on the bench with quality to help me change the way the game is going, if needed. This is a difficult match for us, so I can’t think about Arsenal. I think only about Sporting.”

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