Saturday 16 December 2017

If Diego Costa is not mentally ready for Hull I am to blame, not him, insists Antonio Conte

Conte has not decided whether Costa will start yet. Getty
Conte has not decided whether Costa will start yet. Getty

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Antonio Conte insisted that Diego Costa will be mentally ready to return to action if selected against Hull City tomorrow.

The Chelsea manager is ready to bring Costa back into the team after he was dropped for last Saturday’s win at Leicester City. Conte said at his press conference yesterday that Costa had recovered from his back injury, is training with the group again, and that he would play with full focus and no distractions at Stamford Bridge.

It has been a difficult week for Costa whose head was turned by a £30m salary offer from Tianjin Quanjian in China. The offer was understandably very appealing to Costa but he has been told he will be going nowhere until the end of the season.

Conte has not yet decided whether Costa will start or be on the bench on Sunday, but he is certain that he will be able to put thoughts of the lucrative move to one side when he is on the pitch.

“Every time Diego played for Chelsea, he always put all himself into it for this shirt, for this club,” Conte said. “This is the most important thing. I know this and I'm pleased for this. For this reason, I'm sure on Sunday that, if Diego starts the game, he'll put all himself into it for this club, the shirt and the fans, and do everything he can to win the game.”

Conte was so sure that Costa could be fully focused for Hull that he said that that he would “put his hands in the fire”, an Italian saying meaning truthful certainty. If Costa took the field and was not ready, his manager was willing to take responsibility.

“If Diego is not concentrated and he starts the game, the fault is mine,” Conte said. “It's mine. Because I didn't see it. And I made my choice, and it would have been a bad choice. It wouldn't be the player's fault, it would be mine because, this week, I didn't see that the player wasn't focused or concentrating and was thinking about other situations.”

Conte urged the Chelsea fans at Stamford Bridge to fully support Costa despite the controversy of last week. He was barracked by the crowd just over one year ago after Jose Mourinho’s dismissal but has proved his importance to Chelsea again so far this season. Conte does not want the fans to turn on him.

“It's not right, it's not right,” said Conte, when asked about the possibility of Costa being booed. “Last week, he had this injury, this pain in his back. Now he came back with us. I'm sure that, together, we have to win against Hull City, because it's a really important game for us to win.”

Conte enjoys the complete support of the Stamford Bridge crowd and he urged the fans not to choose him over his star striker Costa. “Our fans are really important, always, because our fans are great,” Conte said.

“They push a lot when we play at home. They push a lot when we play away. And, for us, for me, they are the 12th player on the pitch. I hope to continue in this way, to push a lot our team, my players, in every moment of the game. They are a really important part for us to try and win and try and continue to fight for the title.”

Independent News Service

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