Chelsea could be without their leading goalscorer Diego Costa for the crunch clash with Manchester United on Sunday (Watch live, 12 p.m. ET on NBC and online via Live Extra) at Old Trafford.
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Costa missed Chelsea’s 2-1 win over Crystal Palace last week, his first absence for a PL game since arriving from Atletico Madrid over the summer.
The red-hot Spanish international has scored nine PL goals in seven starts for the Premier League leader but after suffering a groin injury on international duty with Spain (according to reports from the Guardian) plus a severe stomach bug which hospitalized him, the 26-year-old looks highly unlikely to start Chelsea’s match on Sunday.
Add in Costa’s lengthy hamstring issue which means he needs plenty of rest during a regular week, the fact he played all but eight minutes of Spain’s two qualifiers against Slovakia and Luxembourg last week may have irked Mourinho.
If Costa is fit for the bench, that would hand Chelsea a big boost as his replacement Loic Remy is out with a groin injury, leaving veteran striker Didier Drogba — who himself isn’t fully fit after a lengthy spell away from the game in the summer and a nagging ankle complaint — as Chelsea’s only available striker.
Other options for Mourinho include playing Andre Schurrle in an lone forward role (as he did last season at Old Trafford) or chucking in youngster Dominic Solanke who made his debut on Tuesday against Maribor.
Costa’s fitness concerns will be a huge worry for Mourinho and may well hamper his game plan at United. Last season ‘the Special One’ put 10-men behind the ball and played for a draw. This year his team look much more fluid going forward but Costa’s absence may force them to revert to a defense-first approach against United’s glut of talented attackers.