Saturday 24 March 2018

Jose Mourinho gives Diego Costa one-on-one coaching as striker's struggles continue

Diego Costa is key to Chelsea’s hopes of reviving their season
Diego Costa is key to Chelsea’s hopes of reviving their season

Matt Law

Jose Mourinho has given Diego Costa a one-on-one tactics tutorial as he attempts to find a solution to the striker’s poor form and Chelsea’s goalscoring drought.

Costa has scored four goals this season and seven since February, with Mourinho identifying Chelsea’s inability to find the net as the most urgent of the many problems that need rectifying to save their season.

Mourinho instigated the one-on-one chat with Costa at Chelsea’s Cobham training ground in the after­math of the club’s eighth Premier League defeat, 1-0 at home to Bournemouth, which raised fresh doubts over the future of the Portuguese. It is understood that the ­discussion was purely about football and tactics, rather than Costa’s attitude on or off the pitch, which has been called into question in ­recent weeks.

Rather than focusing on Costa’s anger at being left on the substitutes’ bench for the draw against Tottenham Hotspur, during which he tossed his bib in frustration, Mourinho has criticised the 27-year-old for failing to be in the right place at the right time to convert chances.

After being introduced as a substitute in the second half of Chelsea’s defeat against Bournemouth, Costa failed to get on the end of an inviting cross from Branislav Ivanovic that simply needed to be poked into the net.

Costa now seems likely to start the vital Champions League game against Porto on Wednesday.

While Chelsea needing only to avoid defeat to reach the knockout stages, Mourinho will be desperate for Costa and Co to rediscover their goal­scoring touch and to spare his defenders another nervous match.

Costa is not the only player with whom Mourinho has held a personal chat in recent weeks, the ­manager having adopted a similar approach to try to cure Eden Hazard’s slow start to the season. Mourinho spoke with Hazard after the defeat at West Ham United and the personal ­approach worked to a certain degree as the Belgian’s performances have improved, although he has gone 25 Chelsea games without a goal.

Chelsea will attempt to address the club’s goalscoring problems in the January transfer window, but until then Mourinho needs Costa and Hazard to start converting chances again.

With Mourinho working overtime to try to turn around Chelsea’s season, the goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois believes the next two games, against Porto and unlikely Premier League leaders Leicester City on Monday, could be pivotal to the rest of the campaign.

With Mourinho having admitted that Chelsea may not be able to reach the top four this season, Courtois said: “We are ­upset, but we have to regroup again and show strength against Porto in the Champions League and at Leicester.

“It’s an important week for us. On Wednesday we have to win to make sure we are first [in the group] and qualified. That will be a big boost for the team as well. Then Leicester away is a difficult game.

“We knew last year it was not easy there and now they have the confidence and are playing really well. It will be a very tough game, but we are confident we can push on there.

“This season we are a bit unlucky in some games, but we have the same good team as last year and that team was champions so I think we have the quality to get out of this situation and we just have to fight every day, every game.”

Courtois spent three months watching Chelsea’s struggles from the sidelines after undergoing knee surgery. The Belgian has admitted that he was disappointed with the goal he conceded on his return ­after he failed to clear a corner ­decisively and the ball was hooked back for the Bournemouth substitute Glenn Murray to head the ­decisive goal.

“I just try to play my game, help the team like every player wants to do,” Courtois said. “I think I started well with some good saves, but it’s a pity for the goal that I couldn’t have a good touch on the ball. If you’re being pushed by another guy it’s not easy to have a hard hit on the ball and it ended up at the wrong foot and it was a goal.”

Chelsea have agreed to allow the highly rated 19-year-old Charly Musonda to go out on loan in January, possibly on an 18-month deal. “It’s time to take the next step to continue my progression and develop ­towards becoming one of the very best one day at Chelsea,” he wrote.

'With hard work and dedication I believe I can and I’m very excited."

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