Jose Mourinho faces big dates without Diego Costa this week, giving striker 'little chance' of making Sunday's Manchester United match

And 'no chance' of playing against Maribor on Tuesday

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The Independent Football

Jose Mourinho’s latest fitness report on Diego Costa has not only all but ruled Chelsea’s main striker out of Tuesday’s Champions League game against Maribor but also gives him “very little” chance of playing at Manchester United on Sunday.

Costa’s ongoing hamstring problem kept him out of Saturday’s trip to Selhurst Park, and led to Mourinho making pointed jibes about how Spain used the 26-year-old for “big games” against Slovakia and Luxembourg “and he came back in a condition where he’s not available for his club”.

The Chelsea manager said Costa had “little, very little [chance],” of playing against United. “I say Maribor, no chance; Man United, very little – but very little,” he said.

Costa has defied such expectations before, however, and Saturday’s 2-1 victory over Crystal Palace was Chelsea’s first Premier League match this season in which the Spaniard did not start.

But Mourinho praised the side for overcoming the absence of a striker already seen as indispensable in a hard-fought game, in which Oscar and Cesc Fabregas scored for Chelsea and both Cesar Azpilicueta and the Palace defender Damien Delaney were sent off.

“It was good for the group to have an important victory without one player that till this moment has scored so many goals and given us so many points,” Mourinho said.

 

“Without Diego was great, because there is a general feeling that our team improved because of Diego and Fabregas. And it’s fair to say that. But, at the same time, this team had a big improvement [because it] generally thinks the game, controls the game, copes in different moments of the game in a completely different way.”

Though Chelsea have now claimed 22 of the 24 points available, Mourinho believes it is beyond his side to replicate Arsenal’s unbeaten 2003-04 season. “I think the Premier League has changed so much, that it’s impossible to do it,” he said.

“Last year my team was naïve, so we work, we work. In this moment I’m happy. We are not a perfect team – long way to go – but in many aspects our team is a better team,” Mourinho added.

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