Risky business as Mourinho to take chance on Costa
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho intends to risk Diego Costa's fragile hamstrings by starting the striker against Sporting Lisbon and Arsenal this week.
Mourinho anticipates Spain will call upon the £32million summer signing from Atletico Madrid for their matches with Slovakia and Luxembourg next month, despite his belief that complete rest is needed to enable the forward to recover fully from his niggling problem. Costa has scored eight goals in six English Premier League games and was only a substitute in Chelsea's opening 1-1 draw at home to Schalke - a result which indicated the reliance of the Blues on their new star striker.
"Diego starts," said Mourinho, who was speaking on the eve of the Group G clash with Sporting at Estadio Jose Alvalade. "There is a risk, yes, but he plays. We assume the risk and he plays. Hopefully everything goes well and hopefully from Tuesday till Sunday he has enough period of time to be back again on track and to play against Arsenal (in the Premier League).
"It's an important game for us tomorrow, a difficult game and if I can play my best players and the team I think is the best team to try to get the best result, I'm not going to make any change. I don't rest people. I make decisions. I don't think about Arsenal - I think about Sporting and I'm going to start with the team that I think is the best team."
Mourinho does not expect Spain to respect his wish not to call up Costa for national service. The Portuguese said: "I have the feeling that next week he goes to the national team. I have the feeling that in the national team they will not consider the fact that he is in trouble so tomorrow he plays and hopefully he plays Sunday again against Arsenal. But in this moment I don't think about Arsenal - I think about Sporting. And Diego starts tomorrow."
Loic Remy is the only like-for-like replacement for Costa in Chelsea's 20-man squad after Didier Drogba aggravated an ankle problem in training.
"Drogba's going to be out for a couple of weeks," Mourinho added. "He had a problem in a training session in the ankle. Not possible to travel (to Lisbon) and I think not possible to recover for Sunday."
Remy has different attributes, but has Mourinho's confidence. "Remy's learning how to play with us," the Blues boss added. "His movement is good, his pace is good, he can get behind defenders. He's not bad in the air.
"I think he has some similarities with Diego and if he has to play, no problem."