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Friday 15 December 2017

Ailing Costa gets blue light

Diego Costa will return up front for Chelsea against Premier League champions Manchester City on Sunday as Jose Mourinho tries to manage the striker's fragile hamstrings.

Mourinho opted to select the Spain striker, who has scored seven times in four Premier League matches this term, only as a substitute in Wednesday night's 1-1 draw with Schalke in Champions League Group G.

The £32million summer signing from Atletico Madrid is not ready to play more than one game a week, according to Mourinho, after a hamstring problem recurred while on international duty earlier this month.

"Everybody's ready to play," Mourinho said.

"Diego is not in the best conditions, but he will start the game. He plays this game, he cannot play against Bolton. It's as simple as that.

FIT

"I know clearly that we have to try to protect him until he gets completely fit."

The City trip is the first of four key domestic fixtures in Champions League weeks for the Blues, who will hope to swiftly find a solution to Costa's niggle.

The trip to Sporting Lisbon is followed by a home clash with Arsenal, Manchester United away follows the Maribor home tie and a date at Liverpool is immediately after the trip to Slovenia.

"In this moment I don't have this problem," Mourinho said.

"He plays Sunday, doesn't play against Bolton (in the Capital One Cup next Wednesday). He plays against Aston Villa Saturday (September 27).

"In this moment decision made. Let's see his evolution, let's hope he comes in the right direction and becomes available to play every game."

After 13 years with Chelsea, Frank Lampard is now part of Manchester City's squad, having moved to the Etihad Stadium on loan from New York City FC.

Lampard has made just one appearance for City so far - he was hauled off at half-time at Arsenal - and may not feature against his former club, but Mourinho does not believe it would be odd to see the midfielder line up against Chelsea.

Mourinho said: "No. It's football. I wouldn't imagine that if you ask me one, two, three, four, five years ago (it would be strange).

"Even a few months ago, when he signed for the New York team, I was not expecting that. I thought he was going to New York.

"It's his life, it's his decision."

Chelsea, with a 100 per cent record, are already five points clear of City, who have not won in three matches, including the midweek loss at Bayern Munich.

But Mourinho played down the significance of the contest on a title race which is only just beginning and which, he says, also features Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United.

Mourinho added: "It's one more game, it's three more points, but obviously when matches are between title contenders every point makes a difference.

"Arsenal-City, one point each, it means that nobody got three.

"These matches in the end are, or can be, important. But if you analyse just in a simple and pragmatic point of view, it's one game, it's three points and no more than that.

"We play against 19 other teams and for the title it's not just City.

"Other teams obviously are in this race, so this is not a situation of Chelsea or City, City or Chelsea. Other clubs have exactly the same ambition.

"In this moment we are happy. Four matches in the Premier League, four victories.

PANIC

"In the Champions League it's not the result we want but it's not a result to panic. We are in September, we have a long run and we need to try to improve."

Mourinho has analysed last season's matches at the Etihad Stadium, when Chelsea won, ending City's 61-game run of scoring at home in the Premier League, before 12 days later falling to a 2-0 loss in the FA Cup.

"Last season we had the experience and we know what it is to win there and lose there," Mourinho added.

"I did it myself to identify thee differences between one game and another one and probably that can help us to understand why we were so strong in the first game and we were not so strong in the second one."

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