Chelsea striker Diego Costa faces restricted playing time as he battles a niggling hamstring injury. The striker, who joined the Blues for $52 million from Atlético Madrid, was used as a substitute last night in the 1-1 draw with Schalke 04 in the Champions League. However, the injury, which has plagued the striker since he picked it up playing for Spain in early September, is causing major concern for his coach, José Mourinho.
It had been widely-reported last month that Costa could face a number of weeks on the sidelines as he nursed his injury. However, an impressive seven goals in his first four games for Chelsea – including a hat-trick against Swansea City last weekend – has made Mourinho reluctant to leave out his star striker. He was left on the bench last night and Mourinho instead fielded veteran Didier Drogba.
Although Costa has proved he has been able to play on despite the injury, Mourinho has said the Brazil-born striker cannot play more than one game a week unless he takes some time out. That of course poses a conundrum for Mourinho who does not have much cover in the way of forwards. Drogba, now 36, is a shadow of the player he used to be and misfit Fernando Torres is currently at AC Milan on a two-year loan deal. Romelu Lukaku was sold to Everton after spending last season at Goodison on loan and the season before at West Bromwich Albion.
Mourinho knows that while Costa is prepared to play through the pain barrier, it could have a negative impact long-term and Costa could end up sidelined for months. The Portuguese coach could be tempted to let Costa sit out the next few matches with Chelsea on top of the Premier League with a maximum 12 points from four matches – two ahead of closest rivals Aston Villa. While the season is still young, Mourinho could rest Costa without losing too much ground in the title chase, or he may just opt to play him once a week until the injury becomes a much bigger problem.
While Costa’s injury is giving Mourinho cause for concern, it is good news to Chelsea’s title rivals – particularly Manchester City who will face the west London side at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday. City are currently in fifth spot, five points off the top. Costa’s explosive start to his first ever Premier League season has meant Chelsea have managed to outscore teams despite conceding more goals than they are used to under Mourinho. The coach has always been critical of his teams when they concede more than a goal in high-scoring matches and has previously labeled them “hockey scores.” Already the Blues have conceded six in four Premier League matches – one against Burnley, three against Everton and two against Swansea City last weekend.
While Chelsea might be leaking more goals than usual, Costa’s firepower at the other end has made sure they have collected maximum points. However, his injury is now giving Mourinho real cause for concern going into the big weekend clash with City.
Commentary by Robert Shepherd
Image courtesy of Ronnie Macdonald – license