Sport Soccer

Thursday 26 April 2018

Antonio Conte delighted by Diego Costa's performances for Chelsea

Diego Costa is in fine form for Chelsea
Diego Costa is in fine form for Chelsea

Antonio Conte says Diego Costa is this season demonstrating that he is one of the best strikers in the world and leading by example for Chelsea.

Costa, prolific in Chelsea's 2014-15 title success and at times profligate and petulant in last season's 10th-placed finish, has scored nine goals as the resurgent Blues enter this weekend's Premier League resumption second in the table.

The striker withdrew from international duty with Spain with a groin problem but returned to training on Wednesday and could start at Middlesbrough on Sunday, with a rousing endorsement from his head coach to keep doing what he is doing.

"Diego is one of the best strikers in the world," Conte said.

"Diego works a lot with the ball and without the ball. He's an example for all.

"And I want (him) to continue this way. Then, If he continues to score, I'll be very happy.

"But I'm happier to see this commitment, this work-rate during training sessions and during games.

"He must continue to work in this way. If all the players are able to think in this way, we'll be a good team, a very tough team to play."

Chelsea are on a run of five straight wins, scoring 16 goals without reply, ahead of the trip to Teeside.

Chelsea refused to confirm or deny a suggestion the players and staff do not receive match-win bonuses.

The club do not comment on contractual issues, but Conte outlined where his priorities lie.

The Italian said: "When you win a game during the championship, you win a battle. One battle.

"When you win a trophy, you win the war. I like this. I love to win the war.

"To win the war, it's important also to win the battles during the championship. It's a consequence."

Conte again insisted it was premature to set Chelsea's targets for the season.

And he recognises in a competitive league the winning sequence which has featured victories over Hull, Manchester United, Leicester, Southampton and Everton could come to a halt at any time if there is a lapse in focus.

"I'm worried," he added.

"In this situation, it's normal that the focus, the concentration, is a bit low.

"I'm worried to keep during training sessions high intensity and the right spirit.

"In this situation it's important to keep the concentration very high."

The run began when Conte switched to a 3-4-3 formation after the loss at Arsenal and even the Italian has been surprised by the speed of his players' adaptation.

Eden Hazard is revelling by putting the team first, Conte says.

Like Costa, the Belgium playmaker was key in the title triumph, but disappointed last season when he had a niggling hip injury.

And Conte says it is premature to compare the 25-year-old to Barcelona's Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid.

"It's important now Eden is showing his talent and playing very well," Conte added.

"If we want to compare him with the other players, it's not right at this moment.

"He has all the potential to do great things in his career."

With Costa fit and midfielder Cesc Fabregas and defender Kurt Zouma fit again, Chelsea have no injury concerns.

The 5-0 defeat of Everton came prior to the international break, but Conte hopes his players can resume where they left off.

He added: "This week we are working to find the right concentration, the right focus, to restart in the right way."

The international break has seen debate over Oscar's future, given his peripheral status at Stamford Bridge.

"Oscar's future is Chelsea. For me he's an important player in my squad," Conte said.

The Italian said the same applied to Fabregas after being asked specifically about the Spain playmaker's fitness, but not his future.

"For Cesc it's the same speech as for Oscar. I anticipate the question," Conte said.

Press Association

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