Blues prove they can win with­out Costa

The Star Early Edition - - SOCCER -

LON­DON: Lead­ers Chelsea’s se­nior play­ers have been speak­ing to Diego Costa in a bid to smooth over the train­ing ground row which saw him ruled out of Satur­day’s 3-0 Pre­mier League win at cham­pi­ons Le­ices­ter City.

And the club are hope­ful that clear-the-air talks be­tween Costa and man­ager An­to­nio Conte will bring a quick res­o­lu­tion to the dis­pute that has cast a shadow over their ti­tle bid.

Chelsea even hope their striker could be back next week­end against Hull City.

Costa, 28, has two and a half years left on his Chelsea deal and was due to be of­fered a new con­tract worth about £250 000 a week in the com­ing months.

This was in recog­ni­tion of his fine form this sea­son, with his 14 goals help­ing Chelsea to the top of the league.

The of­fer is ex­pected to be dis­cussed in talks with his agent Jorge Men­des in the com­ing weeks but Chelsea owner Ro­man Abramovich will not coun­te­nance a sale at such a cru­cial time.

Costa’s ini­tial dis­con­tent came when he is un­der­stood to have ar­gued with fit­ness staff and Conte over the sever­ity of his in­jury but the man­ager said on Satur­day night.

“On Tues­day, Diego stopped train­ing with a pain in his back and then in the week he didn’t train with us. We played with­out Diego against Bournemouth and we have had time to pre­pare for this. We’ve prepared very well.”

Mean­while, Conte thinks it is im­por­tant Chelsea have demon­strated they can win with­out Costa.

The Blues ex­tended their lead at the top to seven points with a com­fort­able vic­tory at Le­ices­ter, cour­tesy of two goals from Mar­cos Alonso and an­other from Pe­dro.

Chelsea made light work of Costa’s ab­sence as Eden Haz­ard played cen­trally, with Pe­dro and Wil­lian ei­ther side of him – as they had done with equal suc­cess against Bournemouth on Box­ing Day when Costa was sus­pended.

“I think it’s im­por­tant to have an­other plan, to play with­out a No 9 is an­other so­lu­tion. It is im­por­tant,” said Conte.

“We show it against Bournemouth and again we play with­out a num­ber nine and we won the games 3-0 and 3-0. It is im­por­tant al­ways to play as a team and then to have a dif­fer­ent so­lu­tion is im­por­tant for me and for the team.

“Also be­cause some­times it is im­por­tant to change, you plan part way through a cham­pi­onship.

“Now we have started the sec­ond part of the sea­son and ev­ery game now the points are very heavy, they mean a lot for all the teams. Now we stay on top of the ta­ble and if you win you put pres­sure on the other teams.

“But we started our game with a bit of pres­sure af­ter Tot­ten­ham’s vic­tory and we must show good ex­pe­ri­ence to man­age this sit­u­a­tion be­cause we have just started the sec­ond part of the sea­son and it is very im­por­tant not to lose a point, to take three points in ev­ery game.”

De­spite the de­feat, Le­ices­ter man­ager Clau­dio Ranieri felt his team played well and he was pleased to see his play­ers adapt to an­other new for­ma­tion.

“I’m happy with the per­for­mance – we tried to do our best,” said the for­mer Chelsea boss.

“Of course, I’m not happy that we con­ceded a goal at the be­gin­ning of the first half and the be­gin­ning of the sec­ond half, but if you take out those two goals, the match was good for us.” –

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