Diego Costa has been told to focus on his football when Chelsea travel to Arsenal on Sunday – but Guus Hiddink says he “cannot guarantee” the striker will behave himself.
Costa was chief antagonist in September’s clash at Stamford Bridge, which Chelsea won 2-0 to extend their unbeaten Premier League run against the Gunners to eight games.
Jose Mourinho lauded his performance, Arsene Wenger described his behaviour as “unacceptable”, while our article after the match described the Brazil-born Spanish striker as a “master of the dark arts”.
The striker riled Gabriel so much the Gunners defender was sent off, but Costa was retrospectively banned for three games by the Football Association for grappling with Laurent Koscielny in the same game.
“That’s the past,” Hiddink said. “I haven’t seen the images.”
Hiddink has told Costa to focus on playing football on Sunday, but says he can’t promise the striker will behave himself at the Emirates.
“I cannot guarantee, because we’re not dealing with machines, we’re dealing with human beings, but when he is focusing on where he’s good at, around the box, then he’s of big worth,” the Dutchman added.
Hiddink has not spoken to Costa specifically about his temperament.
“I don’t have any complaints about his discipline,” Hiddink said.
Chelsea’s defeat of the Gunners was their first home win of the season and one of the few highlights to date of a chastening campaign.
Hiddink concedes the rivalry is lessened by the Blues’ lowly 14th place in the Premier League, 19 points behind their derby opponents.
Asked whether the level of the rivalry remains, Hiddink said: “Not at this moment, not in this league.
“Arsenal are doing very well and making a good battle for first position. And Chelsea are way down under at this moment. Reality.”
Arsenal have been strengthened by the arrival last summer, from Chelsea, of Petr Cech.
Chelsea captain John Terry said the goalkeeper, who was permitted to move after being displaced as first choice at Stamford Bridge by Thibaut Courtois, would be worth 12 to 15 points this season for the Gunners.
“He’s doing very well,” Hiddink said.