Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has confirmed that Diego Costa will start in the weekend encounter with Manchester City, despite the hamstring issue that continues to be something of concern for the club.
Costa was named on the bench for the midweek Champions League draw with Schalke at Stamford Bridge, and Mourinho revealed after the encounter that the player’s injury troubles prevented his involvement from the start.
However, the fears that he will be unavailable to face Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium have been allayed. Costa will be in the starting XI but, as Mourinho explains, it will result in him missing the following clash with Bolton. But we expect Chelsea will cope with that.
“Everybody is ready to play, Diego is not in the best condition but he will start,” Mourinho said at a pre-match press conference on Friday.
“If he plays he won't play against Bolton [in the Capital One Cup next week].
“I know clearly that we have to try to protect him until he gets completely fit.”
Costa’s hamstring problems are nothing new. The Spain international has a recent history of hamstring trouble, with a similar injury forcing him to hobble out of the Champions League final for Atletico Madrid after playing just nine minutes.
He recovered in time to be included in Spain’s squad for the World Cup, but he looked a player short of fitness and lacking the burst of pace he had been able to demonstrate over the course of a fruitful campaign with Atletico.
Following his £32 million transfer to Chelsea, Costa pulled up in training with a slight tweak prior to the encounter with Everton, and had been expected to take a position on the bench at Goodison Park. He did, however, complete the 90 minutes and score twice.
Perhaps this exertion resulted in a more serious strain sustained on international duty for the recent Euro 2016 qualifiers, with Costa unable to partake in defeat to France or the victory over Macedonia.
Costa was back for Chelsea last weekend against Swansea and scored a hat-trick to take his season tally to seven goals, and the Blues missed his clinical finishing as they struggled to break down a resilient Schalke the following Wednesday, even if he did come on as a sub.
It would appear this will be a pattern that will continue until the hamstring is fully recovered, although there is of course a concern that it will continue to niggle. His workload will have to be carefully managed, and there will come times when Mourinho is at a real quandary when tasked with deciding which games he should and should not miss.
Chelsea’s hopes for the season may well hinge on Mourinho’s ability to make the right call.