Diego Costa has enjoyed a truly phenomenal start to his maiden campaign in English football. Perfectly formed - both physically and mentally - to easily withstand and even thrive upon the many challenges posed by the Premier League, the formidable frontman has gained almost instant cult status at Chelsea after impressively notching eight goals in his first six top-flight fixtures.
Following an extraordinarily productive successful final season in La Liga with champions Atletico Madrid, Jose Mourinho must have been quietly confident that the Spanish international would be fully capable of transferring his obvious talents into a division famed for its relentlessly fast-paced action.
However, even the self-proclaimed 'Special One' - or the 'Happy One' as he now prefers to be called - must have been slightly taken aback by just how confidently and nonchalantly Costa has adapted to his new surroundings with almost embarrassing ease.
Costa's imperious form - along with the similarly crucial contributions of fellow summer signing Cesc Fabregas - has served to elevate Chelsea from likely contenders into fully-fledged title favourites and his arrival in West London swiftly eradicated the central issue behind the failure to secure a single trophy last time out.
The sheer importance of the Brazilian-born striker to Mourinho's cause makes the decision to risk him from the start of the Champions League tie in Lisbon on Tuesday night utterly baffling and frankly unnecessary.
It has been public knowledge for several weeks now that Costa is continuing to carry the considerable burden of a niggling hamstring injury - something that renders his recent goalscoring exploits all the more special and worthy of extravagant praise.
Despite this issue, Mourinho confirmed this morning that the 25-year-old will lead the line for Chelsea on Tuesday as they face Sporting at the Estadio Jose Alvalade in their second European clash of the season.
While the mere presence of Costa will undoubtedly improve the Blues' chances of achieving what should be nothing more than a routine victory over reasonably limited opposition who have drawn five of their last six fixtures, it seems like an enormous gamble from Mourinho that, if it backfires, could have a hugely detrimental impact upon Chelsea's domestic fortunes moving forward.
For the club's last Champions League outing at home to Bundesliga outfit Schalke, Costa was given a well-deserved breather as club legend Didier Drogba was restored to the starting XI after a two-year absence.
It is certainly worth noting that the Ivorian was frightfully poor and subdued during that lacklustre 1-1 draw - something that could have played a major part in Mourinho's decision not to permit Costa to take a further break this week - although he has not travelled to Portugal due to an ankle injury sustained in training that also threatens to curtail his involvement in Sunday's eagerly-anticipated showdown with London rivals Arsenal.
Despite Drogba's sub-par showing against Schalke, one cannot help but think that he would have once again been handed the opportunity to prove his worth against Marco Silva's underperforming side.
Why not Remy?
With Drogba ruled out and Costa evidently not fighting fit, Loic Remy can surely be forgiven for questioning just why he is not yet being considered as a genuine and worthy rival to that aforementioned pair in low-key outings such as this.
It is certainly true that the Frenchman does not possess anything like the same physical qualities and was therefore perhaps signed with the intention of being deployed chiefly as an impact substitute, but with the right support from the likes of Eden Hazard, Oscar and Fabregas, I am inclined to believe that he could enjoy a certain amount of success starting in Chelsea's current system.
Mourinho mind games
Despite his stubborn qualities and occasional tendency to berate officials and blindly defend his team in any circumstances, a manager with a track record of success as striking as Mourinho's is certainly no fool.
Could at least some of the facade surrounding Costa's injury, therefore, just be another intriguing and carefully constructed mind game from the man who relishes the opportunity to create as much uncertainty as possible among the opposition ranks?
It's unlikely, but it would at least explain why Mourinho is willing to risk Costa for a match that, whatever the outcome, should not have too much of a defining impact on Chelsea's overall chances of progression through to the knockout stages.
Alternatively - and more feasibly - it could well be that Mourinho's gamble is being made with the forthcoming international break in mind. However, if this is the plan, then his most recent quotes would suggest a potential hitch in that particular plan.
"I also have the feeling that, next week, he goes to the national team. I have the feeling that, with the national team, they will have no consideration to the fact he's in trouble," he said.
If like Chelsea Spain - who were without Costa for their opening Euro 2016 qualifier against Macedonia after he withdrew from the squad following the friendly defeat to France in Paris - do not make allowances for his injury then the consequences could be profound.
In the absence of Drogba, the ideal scenario for Mourinho against Sporting will be for his team to wrap up a straightforward victory as soon as possible so Costa can be replaced and sufficiently preserved.
Regardless of his lack of alternatives beyond Remy, the decision to start his talisman on Tuesday threatens to derail Chelsea's impressive start to he 2014/15 campaign.
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