Can Chelsea win the title without Diego Costa?

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When news broke that Diego Costa had suffered an injury in training on Wednesday, Chelsea fans could be forgiven for fearing the worst ahead of this weekend's clash against Everton at Goodison Park.

Travelling to Merseyside without the £32 million striker would raise serious doubts about the Blues' capability of claiming all three points against the Toffees, and more generally calls into question the overall strength of Jose Mourinho's squad dubbed the pre-season favourites to win the Premier League title in 2014/15.

In an attempt to allay the growing trepidation regarding Costa's fitness the Portuguese tactician played down rumours of an extended lay-off in Friday's press conference, suggesting that the Spain international could even be included in his matchday squad to face Roberto Martinez's side.

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However, a place on the bench is the best the former Atletico Madrid man could realistically hope for, given the player's recent history of hamstring problems that also hampered his impact at the World Cup in Brazil.

Hamstring history

Rushing the 25-year-old back prematurely will only hinder him in the long-term and Chelsea cannot afford to be without their first choice frontman for too long, due to the lack of other options available at Stamford Bridge.

Didier Drogba's return to west London was only ever agreed with a view to the Ivorian playing a bit-part role for the Blues off the bench. Mourinho wanted the veteran to take on additional coaching responsibilities as well as offer valuable experience to some of the younger players in his new-look squad.

With Romelu Lukaku, Demba Ba and Samuel Eto'o all shipped out this summer that leaves Fernando Torres as the only remaining recognised striker available for selection, but even the £50 million flop has been linked with a move away before the transfer window closes on September 1.

His prospective switch to AC Milan will almost certainly be called off unless Chelsea can find another player to bring in, but with just over 72 hours until transfer deadline the likelihood of that appears increasingly slim.

Medical miracle...

That places even more pressure on the medical staff that are currently treating Costa, with it not unreasonable to suggest that Chelsea's title aspirations this season rest solely on the availability of the Brazilian-born marksman.

Last year Mourinho blamed a lack of firepower up front as the reason why his second debut season in charge ended without a trophy, but in Costa the Blues boss looks to have solved that problem for the new campaign, and will be hoping to fire them into contention in all competitions this term.

The striker has wasted little time acclimatising to the Premier League, netting two goals in as many games, albeit against newly-promoted opposition in the form of Burnley and Leicester City. Neither goal was particularly special, but it was the manner in which Costa took them both that proved the Blues have acquired themselves the kind of goal-poacher they were previously lacking.

His physicality, determination and potency in front of goal are additional attributes that make Costa well suited to England's top-flight, and providing he stays injury free for the majority of the season it wouldn't be beyond him to win the Premier League Golden Boot in his maiden campaign.

Attacking talent

Chelsea are blessed with an array of attacking midfield talent, but the number of opportunities created by the likes of Eden Hazard, Oscar, Cesc Fabregas and Co could be wasted without Costa to finish them off in the final third of the pitch.

Costa's expected absence against Everton risks bringing back the bad memories of last season, and even though Drogba's presence might represent a marginal improvement on the combined contribution of Chelsea's under-par strikeforce from 2013/14, the 36-year-old cannot be expected to maintain his previous level when leading the line.

The official line coming out of Stamford Bridge is that Costa is suffering from a 'minor muscular problem', alleviating concerns following reports the talisman was facing at least six weeks on the sidelines.

Whilst it's not imperative that Chelsea fans know the extent of the problem at this stage Mourinho must be informed before transfer deadline if he faces a prolonged period deprived of Costa's services, so that he can try and bring in another striker option as a top priority.

Premier League rivals

Compared to their main title rivals Manchester City - who boast Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko, Alvaro Negredo and Stevan Jovetic among their options - Chelsea's frontline is significantly inferior.

They're also weaker than Liverpool who have Daniel Sturridge, Rickie Lambert and Mario Balotelli, and Arsenal with Alexis Sanchez, Joel Campbell, Yaya Sanogo and the soon-to-be-returning Theo Walcott providing cover for the recently injured Olivier Giroud.

Manchester United even possess a more talented group of strikers in the form of Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney, Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck, although they're not currently a direct threat to Chelsea's title challenge this term.

Short-term solution?

Andre Schurrle could perhaps be deployed in a central striker role as a short-term solution for Mourinho moving forward, but his goalscoring return leaves a lot to be desired and is unlikely to fill Blues fans with much confidence.

Therefore it's clear that failure to recruit another notable contributor of goals to compliment their undeniably talented attack will leave Chelsea's championship hopes hinging solely on the fitness and form of Costa.

Everyone in west London will be holding their breath for positive news regarding his condition, or else there could be an abrupt end to title talk this season.

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Diego Costa
Premier League

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