Since the supposed "blazing row" between Antonio Conte and Diego Costa at Cobham last week, much ado has been made about what would happen with the Brazilian player at Chelsea. Back and forth the rumors have gone; at one point it even seemed that Diego already had one foot out the door, set to take an opportunity to become a multi-multi-multi-millionaire in the Chinese Super League.
However, while Tianjin Quanjian owner Shu Yuhui confirmed that his club made an offer for Diego, the bust up was merely a result of a debacle over the striker's fitness status due to a back injury he suffered. Said issue has been sorted out, and the fully recovered Diego will be available to play against Hull City this weekend.
"Yes, he’s available for the game against Hull. He started training on Tuesday with the team and he trained very well. He doesn’t have the pain in his back so for this reason he’s available for the game."
"On Sunday and Monday Diego was training so he could work with the team on Tuesday. He trained with a fitness coach, not alone. It’s important to know this. He started training very well to come back on Tuesday. He did that to prepare his body to have a good session on Tuesday."
-Antonio Conte; Source: Chelsea FC
In fact, Conte revealed that all of our first team players are available to feature in our next game.
Conte finishes his press conference by saying everyone is available for selection as of today. We'll have more online soon... #CFC— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) January 20, 2017
As for the supposed showdown talks between player and head coach reported by the press last week, Conte said it was only a simple chat.
Conte: 'Every week I have a chat with my players, a simple chat.' The boss says that is normal. #CFC— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) January 20, 2017
The manager (surprisingly?) just kept rolling with the punches as the many theories conjured up by the media over the last few days were brought up one by one. According to Conte, Diego is happy at the club and wants to keep playing with the team, despite speculation to the contrary.
"After the game against Leicester I told you the truth and I repeat: I heard a lot of speculation about Diego. [But] I think the player wants to stay at Chelsea. He's very happy to play with us. This idea [to move] is far from his mind."
Regarding Diego's future at the club and whether Chelsea should offer him a new contract to guarantee his stay, Conte preferred to focus on the present.
"I think now it's better to be focused, to be concentrated on the present, not on the future. Diego is a good player. He's a good person. Now he's only focused on Chelsea and to play with us and to continue to help us."
"He missed only one game, the last game. Now he's ready to come back with us. I'm sure about his commitment, his behaviour, his will to fight with this team, to try together to fight to the end to try to win the title."
He also didn't exactly confirm Diego's presence on our starting eleven against Hull City this Sunday, although he thinks it would be a 'great achievement' for the striker to reach 100 games with the club by getting a win in the coming weekend.
Conte says Diego is an important player for the team. 'I will see on Sunday' is his response when asked if the striker will start. #CFC— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) January 20, 2017
Conte on Diego Costa's potential 100th appearance for Chelsea: 'It's a great achievement and I hope to celebrate it with a win.' #CFC— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) January 20, 2017
Moving on from Diego, Conte confirmed that there has been an offer from Bournemouth for Bosnian goalkeeper Asmir Begovic. Conte didn't exactly shoot down the speculation; sounds like Bego might need a bit of convincing or future promises.
"Asmir [Begovic] is an important player for me, on and off the pitch. He knows this. There is this offer [from Bournemouth]. The club and I are evaluating this offer."
-Antonio Conte; Source: ITV
With Diego, Eden Hazard, Pedro and Willian in good form and Ruben Loftus-Cheek impressing in the FA Cup, Conte has a bit of a selection headache.
"To make a decision is not easy because I have four or five players who are very strong in that position. We have Eden, Willian, Pedro, Diego and Ruben. They are in good form and they give me different options."
"I’m pleased about this because when you have many players to choose from it’s good. I’ve been sleeping less so I make the best decision but that’s my task, to pick the best players game by game."
"I have to pick three players and if someone misses out it’s not a punishment, only because at that moment I like to make choices based on the game and the opponent, that’s very important to me."
Having returned to Chelsea from his half-season loan spell at Bournemouth, young defender Nathan Aké is still learning the ropes of Conte's system. For the manager, Aké's versatility is a great asset already for the team.
Conte says Nathan Ake is starting to understand his ideas and he is a great option to have in different positions. #CFC— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) January 20, 2017
Although Chelsea are set to face a team that currently sits at 18th place in the Premier League table with a distance of 36 points between each other, Conte want his squad not to take our next challenge for granted.
"Our challenge is to keep the right concentration and to think this type of game is very important for the table if you take three points."
"We have to focus on our target because if you think it will be easy you make a big mistake and you can pay for that at the end of the season."
"Hull City are a good team, they won their last game against Bournemouth. They changed their coach and usually when you do that there is a great reaction from the players."
-Antonio Conte; Source: Chelsea FC
A potentially emboldened Hull City side will do their utmost to upset Chelsea at the Bridge and take revenge for the victory that started our 13-game winning streak back in October. But the league leaders should be up to the task, especially if they keep their head up and focus on the target of maintaining their lead at the top of the table.