Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho will start Diego Costa in tonight’s Champions League last-16 first leg at Paris Saint-Germain, but does not expect his prolific striker to be at his best following his disputed suspension.
The Brazil-born Spain striker was banned retrospectively for three matches for treading on Liverpool’s Emre Can in their League Cup semi-final victory, provoking Mourinho’s ire.
Costa, who has 17 goals in 19 Premier League games this term, missed the matches with Manchester City, Aston Villa and Everton, but will come straight into the starting line-up at Parc des Princes as he bids for a first European goal for the Blues.
“Yes, I start him. But I don’t think it’s good for a player to be three weeks or three matches without starting a game. So I don’t think he’s in the best of his condition,” Mourinho said.
Chelsea overturned a 3-1 first-leg deficit to win the quarter-final tie between the sides last term on away goals, courtesy of Eden Hazard’s penalty in Paris and Demba Ba’s last-gasp decisive strike at Stamford Bridge.
And while David Luiz believes Mourinho’s side are stronger this term, the Portuguese was only interested in focusing on his on the tie ahead.
Mourinho said: “I’m not here to comment what opponents (say), even being David. I don’t want to comment. We beat them, but we lost. And we lost in Paris and again knockout competition was decided in the last minute. A detail makes a difference.
“I’m not saying we won because we were better than Paris. We won because we scored a goal away and we didn’t concede at home.
“Paris is a great team and is basically the same team as last season, with David Luiz. Same team, same coach, same dynamic, same profile.
“They have conditions to be better. When you have stability you can always improve.
“Chelsea is a different team. We have some different players, we change a little bit the profile of our game, the identity of our game.
“I don’t want to say we are better or not better. I’m saying that we change the profile of our game, so I believe that tomorrow Parc des Princes will see a different Chelsea than last season.”
Chelsea had a rare free weekend after their shock FA Cup elimination to Bradford and will play for the first time in six days, since the late Premier League defeat of Everton last Wednesday.
PSG played Caen last Saturday in a 2-2 draw which saw a number of casualties incurred, but Mourinho gave short shrift to the suggestion Chelsea had an advantage.
“We were not happy to be knocked out,” he said. “And the last person you should speak about accumulation of matches is with a manager of an English club.
“England is a special place and when the French players were on holidays at Christmas, we were playing five matches in 10 days, so don’t speak with us about accumulation and fatigue.”
Mourinho bristled at the suggestion Chelsea were not among the leading contenders – with defending champions Real Madrid and 2013 winners Bayern Munich suggested – to win the European Cup on June 6 in Berlin.
“I don’t agree. At all,” Mourinho said. “The Champions League is a space for surprises.
“You go to the last decade and you had teams winning the Champions League that you would expect to win, but you had teams winning the Champions League that you wouldn’t expect. In this moment, 16 candidates, for me.”
The inclusion of Costa was always likely, but Mourinho has selection decisions to make in goal and in defence.
He would not declare whether Petr Cech, who started the most recent game and kept a cleansheet, would start ahead of Thibaut Courtois, who began the season as number one goalkeeper.
“In this moment they don’t know who is going to play,” added Mourinho, who repeated how highly he regards both."
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