Manchester City vs Chelsea: Diego Costa 'must play' with hamstring trouble to give Jose Mourinho an edge

The Special One revealed in midweek that the summer signing cannot currently play more than one game a week

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The Independent Online

Jose Mourinho takes Chelsea to Manchester City on Sunday afternoon hoping he is closing the gap on the side which just beat him – and Liverpool – to the Premier League title last season.

Chelsea finished four points behind City last year but can go eight points clear with victory at the Etihad Stadium.

Mourinho famously described his Chelsea side as a “little horse” last year compared to City and while he would not describe them as a thoroughbred quite yet, he was clear at his pre-match press conference: “We improved. We improved our team and our squad.”

He added: “I don’t want to compare [to City]. I just want to say that I feel our squad is better than last season. We have more solutions. We got a couple of players with qualities which we didn’t have last season.”

 

Those players, Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas, have transformed Chelsea, giving them far more attacking threat. Costa has scored seven goals in the first four Premier League matches despite a hamstring problem that is being managed.

Mourinho admitted that Costa starting on Sunday is a “risk”, and that it will stop him from facing Bolton Wanderers in the Capital One Cup on Wednesday. “Diego is not in the best condition, but he will start the game,” he said, adding that Costa – who trained fully on Friday morning – could do with a few weeks off, but that he “had to play” on Sunday. “Me, him and the doctor – the decision was made between us,” Mourinho said.

“What we can do to improve the situation, we have to do if he is not playing. He needs work, not just from the medical department, but also on the pitch and in the gym. The player is amazing, his attitude is amazing. Clearly, we have to try and protect him until he gets completely fit.”

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Fabregas has been an inspired signing

 

Chelsea have also been improved by the arrival of Fabregas, providing a creativity in midfield which they missed last season. Mourinho said he was not surprised at all by the former Barcelona player’s impact and that the Spanish midfielder had filled an obvious gap in the side.

“I know the player, I know his qualities: age, experience, tactical culture, made in England, made in the Premier League, no need to learn principles and philosophies and feelings. The team was waiting for a player of his dimension.”

Fabregas has helped to replace Frank Lampard, who could turn out for City against his old club. Mourinho, who said he still had a good relationship with Lampard, said he could foresee Chelsea’s record goalscorer returning to Stamford Bridge. “He can be back one day,” he said, “if he wants to be a manager.”

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Jose Mourinho oversees a Chelsea training session earlier in the week

 

When Chelsea went to the Etihad in the Premier League last season, Mourinho masterminded a performance of brilliant counter-attacking football and Chelsea won 1-0. On Friday, he said he found it easier to prepare players for big games because they are more focused.

“It’s easier in the sense of the players being completely open to training, to analyse, to study, to prepare themselves,” he said. “They bring themselves to a certain level of expectation before the big games that makes my work easier.”

After hitting City on the break last time, Mourinho said his team were ready to have possession of the ball, and now had more than one way to win the game.

“The game is unpredictable and we don’t know what will happen,” he said. “If we can have the ball, thank you very much. We want it. If they have the ball, we have to defend and play on the counter. You never know the direction of the game. But our team is comfortable in both situations. We have the ammunition to defend and go on the counter. If we have the ball and are in control, we have the conditions for that too.”

Of course, Chelsea are just four games into the season and Mourinho said they have a long way to go. “I want to make everything better, I am not happy with what we have,” he said. “We are in the beginning of our second season. We are far from being the perfect team. Are we better than last season? We believe so. Do we have more potential than before? I believe so. But we still have lots of work to do.”

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