Blues prove they can win without Costa
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.” –