Conte backs ‘important’ Costa to start firing again for Chelsea

Rob McCarthy
Diego Costa: Has not been at his best since January

Diego Costa has the support of Chelsea head coach Antonio Conte despite the striker’s intermittent goalscoring record this year.

Costa has 17 Premier League goals this season, but only three in 10 games in 2017.

A three-game barren run means the 28-year-old is still seeking his 50th Chelsea goal.

“Goals are very important for the forwards,” Conte said. “But I think he knows that, for us, he’s an important player if he is scoring or if he doesn’t score.

“He must continue with his commitment and then I’m sure he’ll score. He’s playing good football and doing what I want. I’m not concerned about this.

“I speak with all my players if I’m not happy with someone’s commitment or behaviour, but not if he’s not scoring.

“It can happen. In a lot of circumstances he was unlucky. But a player like Diego Costa can score in every game and I’m sure he can do this.”

Costa won LaLiga in Spain with Atletico Madrid in 2013-14 before claiming a first Premier League title with Chelsea a year later after a £32million move to Stamford Bridge.

Now in his third season at Chelsea, Costa is seeking a second Premier League triumph, with the Blues seven points clear of second-placed Tottenham ahead of Saturday’s match at Bournemouth.

Throughout his time with the Blues he has been linked with a move away – a return to Atletico is perennially raised – and in January there were suggestions of a bust-up with Conte over the possibility of a move to the Chinese Super League which did not materialise.

Conte lauded Costa’s character.

He said: “The quality is his experience. His character. His personality. That’s very important for us and the team. Also, Diego won in the past and he has good experience.”

Conte has repeatedly pointed to his team’s experience of winning and again outlined the importance of a winning mentality at this stage of the season.

The Chelsea boss has won Serie A as a player and manager with Juventus, so can share his experience with his players.

He said: “I’m lucky. Lucky because I lived these two situations in both roles, as a manager and as a player.

“A winning mentality is to face every game with the same concentration, with the same intensity, the same desire to fight if you play against a top team or if you play against a team who are fighting in the relegation zone. It’s not easy to have this.”