Chelsea fans are used to Diego Costa being some sort of unstoppable monster this year. But when the Blues have needed him most -- namely against Sunderland and Newcastle, which saw five points left on the table in two trips to the northeast -- he hasn't really contributed much. That's understandable, considering he's still on his way back from an injury that rather thoroughly derailed his autumn, but the club will want to get him back to full flow as soon as possible.
Which is why they decided to play him against Sporting Lisbon. What's the manager's verdict?
Diego wants to improve his condition, the confidence was not high and the condition is not the best but he wanted to use the game to chase that. He had lots of runs, lots of movement, always wanting the ball and to associate with the wingers and Cesc Fabregas. I saw him better than against Newcastle or Sunderland and this game was important for him.
I was a little disappointed in Costa's play for maybe the first half of the first half, when Sporting were being opened up and we might have expected him to score a goal, but as time progressed he looked more and more like his old self. There were questions over why he wasn't being rested for this tie, but it seems from the way his strength built up over the 90 minutes that letting him get another run out to help shake the rust off was a good decision.
Costa might be one of those players -- and his attitude suggests that this isn't an absurd proposition -- who, when healthy, needs regular time more than he needs breaks. Hopefully getting the full match yesterday will help him snap out of this mini-funk.