Sunday 4 December 2016

Diego Costa: I escaped bib-throw sanction because Chelsea dressing room loves me

Published 10/12/2015 | 04:36

Diego Costa returned to the starting line-up after a two-game absence for Chelsea on Wednesday
Diego Costa returned to the starting line-up after a two-game absence for Chelsea on Wednesday

Diego Costa believes he avoided punishment for his bib-throwing display of petulance because "the dressing room loves me".

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The striker again backed Jose Mourinho to continue as manager after returning to the starting line-up, after a two-game absence, as Chelsea beat Porto 2-0 to advance to the Champions League knockout stages on Wednesday night as Group G winners.

The Blues want to translate the vastly improved showing into the Premier League and Costa is keen to play his part after being dropped by Mourinho, with Eden Hazard deployed as a 'false nine' against Tottenham and Bournemouth.

When it became apparent Costa would not be used in the goalless draw at White Hart Lane he appeared to fling his pink substitutes' bib in the direction of Mourinho, narrowly missing.

"People have made a party about this," Costa told IBTimes UK.

"If I want to throw the bib at him it would have been impossible to fail because I was very close. But anyway the attitude was not good. It was disrespectful not only to him but to my team-mates.

"But as the dressing room loves me nothing happens."

Mourinho was subject of the first managerial vote of confidence in Roman Abramovich's 12-year ownership on October 5, but fortunes have barely improved since.

Chelsea could be in the Premier League's relegation zone by the time of their next game with Leicester on Monday.

The Champions League draw takes place on the same day, with Mourinho believing all their possible opponents - Paris St Germain, PSV Eindhoven, Benfica, Juventus, Roma or Gent - want to play them.

Whether he will still be in charge when the competition resumes in February will depend on an improvement in domestic affairs, but Costa believes Mourinho is not at fault for their miserable season so far.

"Despite things not going well he is not to blame," Costa added.

"One thing is when one thing doesn't work, but when four or five players are not playing (well) it is more difficult. The manager has been fighting and encouraging us to turn this around.

"We know that the manager is going to stay here until end of season. Fans like him so much, the board respect him and the players know that he is very important for us."

Costa is one of the players who has underperformed, scoring just seven times for Chelsea since January and four times this season.

He has one Champions League goal for the Blues since his summer 2014 arrival.

Mourinho said Costa returned for pre-season training overweight and suggested every game without a goal was adding a further burden of 5kg to his misfiring striker.

Unsubstantiated reports suggested the pair's relationship was strained, while Costa was one of three players pictured on a night out prior to the loss to Bournemouth, which was actually the full squad's Christmas celebration and approved by the manager.

Mourinho also said the Brazil-born Spain striker's lack of confidence was clear against Porto, where Costa forced a lucky break in an opening goal after which the visitors could not respond.

And Costa says he accepted being dropped without explanation.

"I don't need someone to tell me that I'm not having a great season," added Costa, whose most recent goal was on November 21 in the win over Norwich.

"He spoke with me but he doesn't need to explain anything. I know it and it is normal that the manager tries to find different alternatives to win games.

"We have a very good relationship and everything has gone well."

Costa was prolific in his first months at Chelsea following his £32million move from Atletico Madrid.

But his form has led to suggestions Chelsea are in the market for a new striker, while he has often been linked with a return to Spain.

"It seems the English media want me to leave England as soon as possible. Because it's not normal what they say," Costa added.

"The truth is that I'm happy here. The only thing which I'm not happy about is the situation of the team.

"But if I were happy with that it would be very ungrateful. I have to improve and the team has to improve."

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