Sunday 18 February 2018

Controlled Costa is fit for Boro clash

Antonio Conte accepting his October manager of the month. Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images for Premier League
Antonio Conte accepting his October manager of the month. Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images for Premier League

Ian Baker

Antonio Conte believes that Diego Costa has finally learned to control himself and become "an example" to his Chelsea side.

The Spanish striker became something of a liability in his first two seasons at Stamford Bridge due to his irascibility which repeatedly got him into trouble with referees and the authorities.

But now Conte believes Costa has changed and has praised his overall attitude and demeanour after declaring the 28-year-old fit to play at Middlesbrough today despite missing his country's matches with Macedonia and England.

Costa has scored nine times in Premier League games but his manager believes he brings far more than just goals to the side.

"I think Diego is a very good player," said the Italian. "It is important for me to see that every game Diego works a lot with the ball and without the ball. He's an example for all and I want him to continue that way. If all players think this way, we'll be a good team and tough to play again.

"Diego shows emotion but he can control himself. It's fantastic.

"Diego is improving a lot in a lot of aspects. For me now he's one of the best strikers in the world.

"He must continue working in this way, with the commitment and work rate. He's fantastic to see his work rate in games and training games."

Chelsea are in outstanding form with five straight league wins and there is an air of positivity especially with Costa's fitness boost and similarly positive news about Eden Hazard.

"Costa had a bit of an injury and started to train on Wednesday," confirmed Conte. "His physical condition is good. He can play. Eden only had a tackle, and he recovered very well.

"I am always worried when I see there is a probability that one player is not able to play. You are a bit worried but it's important to play for the national team. So far we were lucky. Not one player came back injured."

Conte though seemed unnecessarily worried and is wary that such a positive run of results may soon be coming to an end.

"We are working to avoid a loss of momentum," he said. "We are working to find the right concentration and focus."

Meanwhile Conte has dismissed suggestions that Oscar has no future at Stamford Bridge despite not starting a league match since September.

"Oscar's future is Chelsea," said the Italian.

"Chelsea, full stop. For me, Oscar is an important player in the squad. He's in good form.

"It's logical I have to take the starting XI every week, but Oscar is a great player. For me, he stays at Chelsea.

"It's important that this message arrives for all. But Oscar will stay with us because I consider him an important player for Chelsea."

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