Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho confirmed Diego Costa will return to the starting line-up in Tuesday’s Champions League last 16, first leg against Paris Saint-Germain in the French capital despite not being in “the best condition.”
The Brazil-born Spain striker has not played since the League Cup semi-final, second leg against Liverpool on January 27, when he picked up a three-match suspension for a stamp on Emre Can.
Didier Drogba and Loic Remy have filled in for Costa in the meantime, but the scorer of 17 goals in the Premier League this season will lead the line at the Parc des Princes.
“I will start him but I don’t think it’s good for a player to be three weeks or three matches without starting a game so I don’t think he’s in the best condition,” said Mourinho at a press conference on Monday evening.
“But at the same time Remy and Drogba played the last three matches and it was important for them to have minutes and confidence, and I know now that I have them both ready now too.”
Chelsea’s early exit from the FA Cup at the hands of lower-league Bradford City meant they had a free weekend before travelling across the Channel on Monday.
That was in contrast to Paris, who lost Yohan Cabaye, Serge Aurier and Lucas to injuries in a 2-2 draw with Caen that did little to help their hopes of retaining their Ligue 1 title.
– Cup exit ‘never a blessing’ –
However, Mourinho dismissed suggestions that being out of the FA Cup was a good thing for the Premier League leaders as they target a second Champions League crown.
“It is never a blessing to be knocked out of any competition. It is always a problem and never a solution, so I’m not happy to be knocked out,” said the Portuguese manager.
“The last person you should speak to about accumulation of matches is the manager of an English club. Because England is a special place and when French players were on holiday at Christmas we were playing five matches in 10 days so don’t speak to us about accumulation and fatigue.”
Chelsea lost 3-1 at the Parc des Princes in the first leg of their quarter-final tie against PSG last season before winning 2-0 in the return to progress on away goals.
Goals by the now-departed Andre Schuerrle and Demba Ba proved crucial in that second leg and Mourinho warned home fans that Chelsea will be a different prospect on their latest visit to the famous stadium in Paris’ plush 16th arrondissement.
“We beat them but we lost in Paris. The tie was decided in the last minutes,” he said of last year’s tie.
“That detail makes the difference. I am not saying we won because we were better than Paris. We won because we scored away and didn’t concede at home.
“Their team is basically the same as last season, with David Luiz (formerly of Chelsea). They have the same coach, the same dynamic and the same profile.
“They have the conditions to do better because when you have stability you can always improve.
“I don’t want to say we are better or not better but we have changed our profile. I believe that tomorrow the Parc des Princes will see a different Chelsea than last season.”
Meanwhile, French international Remy, formerly of PSG’s great rivals Marseille, said he still expected Laurent Blanc’s side — unbeaten at home this season — to provide formidable opposition despite their injury problems.
“We don’t have to care about how many injuries they’ve got. PSG are still a good team and are really strong,” he said.
“I know they have a few injuries. Maybe for them it’s a bit difficult but for us it’s still the same.”
Photo Credits : AFP