Clive Rose/Getty Images

If Costa leaves, will Chelsea remain PL title contenders?

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Rumors have begun to swirl while the manager continues to deny any controversy, so what exactly is going on at Chelsea?

[ MORE: Spurs, Arsenal, Chelsea all win big in Saturday’s PL action ]

The Blues handled their business on Saturday with a comfortable 3-0 victory over Leicester City, however, Antonio Conte‘s side was forced to do so without the services of leading striker Diego Costa.

[ MORE: Conte says back injury left Costa out of Chelsea squad vs. Leicester ]

While Conte cited the Spaniard having suffered a back injury during training, several outlets have reported various reasons as to why Costa was left out of the squad that traveled to take on the Foxes. The Telegraph stated that a spat between Costa and the manager has left the striker on the outs and that the Blues are demanding an apology from the 28-year-old if he is to continue with the team moving forward.

Meanwhile, Costa has also been the subject of rampant transfer rumors linking him to China as the next major star to complete a big-money move.

Other than the Spaniard being left out of the Chelsea squad on Saturday there’s been little evidence suggesting that Costa will in fact leave the London club, but if any of the rumors are true it could present a dilemma for the league leaders.

[ LISTEN: 2 Robbies on Costa’s uncertain future ]

So, what would happen if Costa is actually sold or forced out of the club in January?

The 3-0 scoreline at the King Power Stadium was certainly impressive against Leicester, but Chelsea will be facing much stronger competition the rest of the way if they are to regain their status as Premier League champions. The Blues currently have the luxury of holding a seven-point advantage over second-place Tottenham but with Liverpool and Arsenal looming over the coming weeks the table could look drastically different.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 04: Pedro of Chelsea (L) and Diego Costa of Chelsea (R) argue during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea at White Hart Lane on January 4, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

Costa is undoubtedly a force to be reckoned with as the PL’s top goalscorer, so it would certainly present a challenge if he wasn’t in the fold for the Blues over the second half of the season. His 14 goals and five assists have created a nightmare of a matchup for opposition, and that sort of production likely can’t be duplicated by anyone in the Chelsea squad. At least not at the striker position.

Outside of Costa, Michy Batshuayi and Pedro are the only two strikers that have seen minutes this season for Chelsea. Pedro has lifted his PL stock in his second season with the Blues, scoring on four occasions and adding five assists, but Batshuayi has really struggled to find his footing at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea would likely be able to get away with playing Pedro as the team’s no. 9 against the PL’s lesser sides, but between Costa’s mix of physicality, finishing ability and speed, the difference in the two player’s abilities is great.

Each of the PL’s top six sides are currently separated by 10 points or less — with no team having lost more than one game in their last five — so even with Chelsea’s comfortable gap at the moment the title race is nowhere near over and Costa will play a massive role one way or another in the club’s fate.

Leicester City 2-0 Watford: Vardy, Mahrez lead Foxes 7th

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  • Vardy wins, converts PK
  • Mahrez puts win to bed
  • Fifth-straight Leicester clean sheet
  • Foxes go 7th
  • Watford one win in 11 PL matches

Claude Puel‘s Leicester City revolution remains pointed upward, as the Foxes moved seventh with a 2-0 win over Watford on Saturday.

Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez scored for Leicester City, whose 34 points are level with Burnley.

The loss leaves the Hornets just three points clear of the drop zone with 26 points.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

An early chance for Jamie Vardy was denied by Watford backstop Orestis Karnezis, and Shinji Okazaki couldn’t sort himself for the rebound.

The Hornets asserted themselves in looking for an equalizer, as Marco Silva made changes and had three strikers on the pitch at the end of the match.

Karnezis made a two-fisted stop on Wilfried Ndidi as the match neared 90 minutes, allowing Watford late oxygen.

The hope was suffocated by Mahrez’s strike minutes later, as Leicester moved up the table again when Adrien Silva played the Algerian through to dazzle with a fine goal.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Stoke City 2-0 Huddersfield: Lambert bags debut win

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  • Stoke win their first game with Paul Lambert in charge
  • Huddersfield are winless in six PL games, losing three on the spin
  • Stoke climb out of bottom three; goals from Allen, Diouf

Stoke City beat Huddersfield Town 2-0 on Saturday at the bet365 Stadium with goals from Joe Allen and Mame Biram Diouf handing Paul Lambert a win in his first game in charge of the Potters.

Lambert’s men were the better team throughout and broke through twice in the second half in quick succession against a poor Huddersfield side.

With the win the Potters moved out of the relegation zone on 23 points, while Huddersfield slipped closer to the relegation zone and are just three points above the drop zone.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Stoke started the better of the two teams as Charlie Adam flashed an effort just wide from long range, while at the other end Steve Mounie flashed an effort just wide. Huddersfield had some

Ryan Shawcross headed over and although Stoke dominated possession, they struggled to get in-behind a stubborn Huddersfield defense.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

The Potters’ best chance of the first half came last. Xherdan Shaqiri raced free right on half time but Jonas Lossl made a great stop to deny the Swiss winger lobbing him.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ] 

Shaqiri had an acrobatic effort ruled out for offside, yet Lambert’s men soon made up for their missed chances. Choupo-Moting’s cross from the right found Allen at the back post and he slotted home to send the home fans, and Lambert, wild.

Soon after Lambert was jumping for joy on the sidelines agains as Choupo-Moting’s pass found Shaqiri who teed up Diouf to finish and make it 2-0.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Stoke almost added to their healthy lead late on but they settled for a massive three points to breath new life into their battle against relegation and drag Huddersfield into the mire.

Everton 1-1 West Brom: Walcott assists equalizer

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  • Krychowiak wonder pass puts WBA ahead
  • West Brom out-attempts Everton 15-9
  • Toffees level through Niasse
  • McCarthy suffers horrible leg break
  • Everton seven winless in all comps

Theo Walcott made an impact on debut as Everton came back to draw West Bromwich Albion 1-1 at Goodison Park on Saturday.

The match was Sam Allardyce‘s 1000th as a Premier League manager as Everton’s onto 28 points, seven points clear of the drop zone.

Walcott’s headed assist of a Wayne Rooney cross was deposited by Oumar Niasse, as Everton canceled out Jay Rodriguez’s opener. The Baggies sit three points back of 17th place Stoke City.

The match was delayed for seven minutes when James McCarthy suffered an ugly double leg break.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

The Baggies went ahead thanks largely to absurd pass from Grzegorz Krychowiak, who opened the lid on Everton’s back line with an outside of the boot pass to a perfectly-timed running Rodriguez.

What a pass.

A rare shot on target, the first in four hours and 10 minutes of league play for Everton, drew jeers from Goodison Park. Ironically, the shot from Jonjoe Kenny was dangerous and headed for the upper 90 when Ben Foster plucked it out of the sky.

James McCarthy suffered a gruesome injury in the 58th minute, when he lunged to get his leg between Salomon Rondon’s full-vigor shot and the ball. Rondon was close to tears after the incident.

Super sub Niasse made it 1-1 in the 70th minute, as Walcott rose to meet Rooney’s diagonal cross and nodded the ball into the path of the Senegalese striker.

Jordan Pickford made a pair of fine saves as West Brom looked to regain the lead, with Rondon remaining lively.

Mason Holgate headed a promising Gylfi Sigurdsson free kick over the bar in the 89th minute.

Rondon hit the cross bar in the sixth minute of stoppage time.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Arsenal 4-1 Crystal Palace: Gunners rampant

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  • Arsenal have scored in all 18 home league games against Palace, totally 43 goals – an average of 2.38 per game.
  • The Gunners grabbed their first win in six across all competitions
  • Palace haven’t won away in the PL at Arsenal since October 1994

Arsenal beat Crystal Palace 4-1 at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday after a stunning start to the game.

The Gunners were 4-0 up after just 22 minutes with Nacho Monreal, Alex Iwobi, Laurent Koscielny and Alexandre Lacazette all on the scoresheet.

Palace grabbed a goal back via Luka Milivojevic late on but the damage was done early on as Arsene Wenger‘s side reminded their doubters just what they’re capable of, even with Alexis Sanchez heading out of the door to Manchester United as he wasn’t involved on Saturday.

With the win Arsenal remain in fifth place on 42 points and are five points off the top four, while Palace remain on 25 place and drop to 13th place.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Arsenal went ahead early as Granit Xhaka‘s corner found Monreal at the back post and the Spanish defender marked his return to the team with a fine header. 1-0.

Soon it was 2-0 as Monreal was played in down the left following some slick passing from Arsenal saw the Spaniard cross for Iwobi to tap home.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

The goals kept coming for Arsenal early on with Monreal involved yet again as a ball to the back post found him unmarked and his cutback was bundled home by Koscielny to make it 3-0.

Mesut Ozil and Jack Wilshere were then involved in a fine team goal as they set up Laceztte to finish and make it 4-0 with less than 23 minutes on the clock.

Monreal was subbed out before half time after suffering a reaction to his recent injury, while Palace almost pulled a goal back just before half time but Wilfried Zaha‘s shot was tipped wide by Petr Cech.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ] 

Palace improved in the second half and could have had a penalty kick with Zaha going down in the box under a challenge from Mohamed Elneny but nothing was given.

Arsenal had a decent chance as Ozil set up Iwobi but the latter had his shot saved well by Wayne Hennessey.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

At the other end Cech kept out Christian Benteke with a great save but he couldn’t keep Palace out. Benteke’s header across goal found Milivojevic and he chested the ball before firing home on the turn. A fine consolation goal for the Eagles.