Football

Diego Costa will prove a £32m bargain and win Chelsea the title

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Pre-season friendly performances should only ever be taken with a pinch of salt, but if Diego Costa's showing in last night's 2-0 victory over Real Sociedad is anything to go by, then you could forgive Chelsea's Premier League title rivals for fearing the worst ahead of the new campaign.

The £32 million striker took less than 60 seconds to break the deadlock at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday evening with a well-taken finish, after latching onto a perfectly-weighted through ball by Ramires to breach the Spanish opponents' defence.

He doubled his tally six minutes later - albeit with a close-range tap-in to an open goal - reacting quickest to Andre Schurrle's curling edge of the box effort that rebounded off the post.

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The quick-fire double represented Costa's third and fourth goals of pre-season, and will provide Blues fans with plenty of reason for optimism ahead of their 2014/15 opener against Burnley on Monday, particularly after the team's struggles in front of goal last term.

Jose Mourinho's first year of his second tenure in west London started promisingly before tailing off towards the end of the campaign, and the notable lack of firepower up front was widely perceived as the main reason why Chelsea finished 2013/14 without a trophy.

But, the capture of the Spain international striker from Atletico Madrid has propelled the Blues back into title contention, making Mourinho's men the favourites to win the domestic crown.

The Portuguese coach spoke glowingly about Costa's attributes in his post-match press conference last night, tipping the Brazilian-born star to excel in England's top-flight this season.

Mourinho praise for Costa

"What can we expect? I expect Diego and Diego is a team player who works hard, he's not just about goals," he was quoted saying by The Guardian. "It's about his defensive work, mentality and ambition.

"This is the player we bought and we were waiting for since last season. This is why we didn't buy a striker in the winter market. We were waiting for him, we have him and hopefully everything goes well."

Mourinho added: "He looks adapted to the team and the Premier League, not just Chelsea, should be happy. Sometimes we lose important players going to other countries and sometimes we bring new top players here.

"You can consider that [a bargain] because the market is crazy and the values are very high. For a striker like him, a champion in Spain, a Champions League finalist, a 25-year-old, we consider the price was very much in our favour."

New-look team

The additional acquisition of Cesc Fabregas from Barcelona and Filipe Luis also from Atletico Madrid will also help take Chelsea to the next level, but there's no doubt that the most important signing is Costa.

With Samuel Eto'o, Demba Ba and Romelu Lukaku all departing, the Blues only other central striker options are £50 million misfit Fernando Torres and returning legend Didier Drogba who, at 36, is way beyond his best.

The fact that the Ivorian picked up an ankle injury in last week's friendly against Ferencvaros in Budapest places even more pressure on Costa to hit the ground running in England. Thankfully, he already looks fully capable.

His speed, strength and clinical goalscoring ability will play an integral role in determining the success of Chelsea's season, and should bridge the gap between being peripheral title contenders and genuine champions next May.

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Topics:
Chelsea
Premier League
Football

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