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Diego Costa's struggles reflect Chelsea's bad form after Champions League exit

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Jose Mourinho's relief was palpable when Gary Cahill slammed home his shot in the 81st minute against Paris Saint-Germain last night to get his side what at that point looked like a decisive lead at Stamford Bridge. His joy wasn't to last.

It was an assured finish from a centre-back, one that a forward, perhaps one like Diego Costa, would have been proud of. Instead the Brazilian had fluffed his attempt seconds before so badly it fell into Cahill's path to finish the job. Those being kind labelled it an assist.

Form

It summed up a torrid night for the Brazilian, whose form has hit the buffers at the same time as his teams. He took six shots on goal last night in the 2-2 (3-3 agg) draw against PSG which sent Chelsea tumbling out of the Champions League, managing to get just one on target - and that came via a header in the 117th minute. He doubled the attempts on goal of the next most prolific shooter, Edinson Cavani, in his search to score his first Champions League goal, or indeed cup goal, this season.

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The former Atletico man retained his mean streak even if his scoring touch deserted him, getting into scrapes with David Luiz and Yohan Cabaye as Chelsea were dumped out at the last-16 stage, committing five fouls in the process - the third highest figure from both teams in an ill-tempered game. The old fire is still there alright, but the goals aren't.

Dried up

Costa's goals have slowly dried up as the season has progressed. He's failed to find the back of the net (his strike in the Capital One Cup final has been put down as a Kyle Walker own goal) since his double against Swansea on January 17 - that's a run of seven games or almost 11 hours of football. To put that into context he's not been through a similar barren spell since the 2010/11 campaign with Atletico Madrid when he managed just seven goals in 34 appearances all season.

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His form in the first half of the season perhaps made a rod for his back. He scored 14 in 22 up until Boxing Day and was well on course to be crowned Premier League top scorer, but since then he's faltered. 

Team-mates

That could well have something to do with the form of Cesc Fabregas. The Spaniard, who still doesn't look to be fully over a hamstring injury, hasn't laid on an assist in nine games having shattered the record for laying on goals for team-mates in the first half of the season. He'd clocked up 15 by January in the win against Swansea that Costa last scored in but hasn't added to his tally since then. 

Fabregas has laid on an assist for five of Costa's 15 goals and provided a key pass for another, by far the biggest portion of any Chelsea player. With the former Barcelona man out of sorts he's certainly suffering. 

In his first 26 games for the Blues, Costa had had fired in 77 shots, with 39 hitting the target, but in the seven games since then he's managed just 14 shots, with three on target. That works out at 2.9 shots-per-game with 1.9 on target compared to 2 shots-per-game with 0.4 on target. That's obviously a small sample size but fairly damning.

Fatigue

Tiredness has been quoted as a factor and it's true that he played 80 games in 19 months - Chelsea's lack of striking options means he's started pretty much every game he's fit.

That theory would sit in well with the fact that Jose Mourinho rarely rotates his main starters - something which seemed to impact their form over Christmas. The Blues have won just four of their last 11 games and scored 14 goals in that time; their 11 games prior to that yielded 25 goals and eight wins so fatigue could well be a contributory factor, but what isn't clear is whether Costa's form has slipped because of his team's overall struggles, or whether they're failing because he can't find the back of the net.

Despite their Champions League exit Chelsea remain well placed to win the Premier League to go alongside their Capital One Cup win earlier this month. But with the Blues and their main striker running out of steam as the going gets tough, there's plenty of work for Mourinho to do for next season if he wants to break his European duck in west London.

Do you think that Diego Costa is to blame for Chelsea's recent problems? 

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Topics:
Football
UEFA Champions League
Diego Costa
Chelsea

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