Saturday was supposed to be an off day for the ailing Diego Costa, but with Chelsea even with Stoke, 1-1, at half time, José Mourinho pressed his leading scorer into action. Within 10 minutes, the Blues boss was left ruing his decision, with Costa lying prone in front of the Potters’ goal after aggravating his hamstring injury.
Loïc Rémy had started at forward for the home side before moving wide to accommodate Costa, with Didier Drogba apparently set to replace him as the match approached the hour mark. But instead of coming on for the sometime French international, the Chelsea legend assumed Costa’s role, with the former Atlético man left gingerly walking toward the dressing room as his replacement came on.
Shortly after, Rémy scored a go-ahead goal, partially alleviating fears Chelsea would miss its match-changing forward. Now that fear gets pushed forward, with Costa facing a second straight spring compromised by leg injuries.
Last year, as Atlético Madrid pushed for a Spain-Champions League double, Costa was also troubled by a hamstring problem. Although Atleti went on to claim La Liga, the Brazilian-cum-Spaniard lasted only nine minutes in the Champions League final against Real Madrid. Atlético went on to lose in extra time, 4-1.
Is this now a chronic problem for Costa? Perhaps. Early in the season, Mourinho alluded to his inability to play on short rest. Perhaps this is a product of Chelsea’s over-reliance on its first XI? At least, I’m told that’s a thing.
Odds are this will be a non-factor in Chelsea’s season. The club’s no longer in the Champions League or vying for the FA Cup. Given the team’s lead in the Premier League, it would take a failure on multiple fronts to bring Arsenal, Manchester City, or Manchester United back into the race.
But if this is the first crack in a fatigue-threatened wall, Costa’s recovery could be important. Given he’s just aggravated a possibly reoccurring injury, he may need to regain full strength before returning to the field.