Jose Mourinho admits Diego Costa is a crucial player for his side ahead of their last 16 Champions League showdown against PSG – despite him having not played since the end of January.
The Spanish striker was handed a three-game ban for stamping on Liverpool’s Emre Can in the League Cup semi-final.
The former Atletico Madrid striker has been told he will play in the match but Mourinho is concerned about the length of time he has been out of action for – in stark contrast to the Portuguese’ calls for his player to be rested earlier in the season when he was suffering with an ongoing hamstring injury.
Back then Mourinho was involved in a public war of words with Spain over Costa’s injury situation, with the forward curiously pulling out of the national team’s squad despite playing for the Blues just before the international call-up.
With Costa being dogged by injury problems for much of the season you would have thought the pragmatic Mourinho would have welcomed the fact his star striker had the chance to recharge his batteries ready for the vital run-in, with it also affording the opportunity for the sparingly used Loic Remy and Didier Drogba to gain some much needed game time.
Mourinho, though, was keen to put a negative spin on the situation with Costa.
“He will start but a long rest is not good for him,” the Chelsea boss said.”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’ll be in the best condition.
“A little rest is welcome for everyone; a big rest isn’t good for the players. So we are not going to see the best Diego. I hope I’m wrong, but probably he will need this game to try to get back to his best.
“We organised a game three or four days ago with the kids for him to compete in. We tried to replicate competition for him but it’s different.
“I know he has hunger to play, a big appetite to play, and the Champions League scenario is a scenario that every player enjoys.
“And, at the same time, Remy and Drogba have played in the last three matches. Obviously it’s important for them to have had minutes and confidence and I know that I have them both ready for the game, too.”
It all smacks of further mind games from Mourinho, who is under pressure to deliver the Champions League for Chelsea.