Manchester United playmaker Juan Mata has given his backing to Chelsea striker Diego Costa after the striker's recent controversy.
Costa was handed a retrospective three-game ban following an incident involving Arsenal defender Gabriel at Stamford Bridge last month, but Mata claims aggression has always been part of his compatriot's game.
In fact, the United ace has insisted that he'd rather have Costa 'as a team-mate than a rival', but admits that it's not easy playing in attack for Spain.
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Costa has been left out of the national squad for their upcoming Euro 2016 qualifiers. The forward is suspended for Friday's clash against Luxembourg, but would have been available for the showdown with Ukraine.
Mata, who could feature in both games, has sympathy for the Chelsea man. As per Goal.com, he told Onda Cero: "Being the striker in a team like ours, with so many midfielders, is not easy.
Mata backs Costa
"You have to adapt and above all be patient, because there is a lot of time without touching the ball. But when you do get it you have to finish well. It is a very complicated role and players like [David] Villa or [Fernando] Torres did it very well, but it is difficult to come in and adapt.
"It is very difficult to face him. I would rather have him as a team-mate than a rival. His movement and goals will always create problems. Also because he fights with the centre-backs and causes friction that somehow knocks the opponents' concentration."
When speaking about the forward's aggressive style, Mata continued by saying: "That is his game and always has been - it is not new. Now it seems to be talked about more because he is in the Premier League and he is something different from what was there, but he has always played well."
But Costa must change
Ultimately, though, Costa's attitude must change. Of course, he's always going to be enigmatic and unpredictable, but there's no point in him sitting in the stands.
It's crucial that he delivers on the pitch after the international break. Chelsea have endured a torrid opening to the season and they need their star striker to deliver week in, week out.
How many goals do you expect Costa to score this season? Have your say below!
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