Antonio Conte said he has no regrets about leaving Diego Costa on the pitch for 90 minutes in Chelsea’s 3-0 win against Leicester City, though he admitted that he “risked” a yellow card or injury by keeping the striker in the game until the end.
Costa opened the scoring after just seven minutes at Stamford Bridge with his seventh Premier League goal of the season, and further strikes from Eden Hazard and Victor Moses in each half secured a comfortable victory over the struggling Premier League champions.
But the 28-year-old grew agitated during Conte’s second-half substitutions and gesticulated angrily toward the Chelsea bench on several occasions, giving rise to suggestions that he might be concerned about the possibility of picking up an injury or fifth booking of the season that would rule him out of next weekend’s clash with Manchester United.
“If I can, I [always] keep Costa until the end of the game,” Conte said. “He’s an important player for us because he has a good personality. He transfers his passion and we need this passion in every moment of the game.
“I know that I risked today because if Costa took another yellow card he misses the next game [against United], but Costa’s passion is important for the team. He must transfer this in every game, in every single minute for the team.
“I decide the substitutions. I always take responsibility in positive or negative situations. It’s always my decision.”
Asked whether injury concerns may have contributed towards Costa’s body language in the second half, Conte replied: “I think Diego is in good shape. We are working very hard and in the physical aspect we are in good shape.”
Conte was in positive mood after watching Chelsea beat the Foxes in convincing fashion, recording a second consecutive clean sheet in the wake of their head coach’s shift to a 3-4-3 system and finishing the match with three academy products — Nathaniel Chalobah, Ola Aina and Ruben Loftus-Cheek — on the pitch.
“In the first half we played a very good game with a good idea of football, with high intensity, with good passing,” Conte added. “We found the strikers between the lines and we created many chances to score. We were also very aggressive when we lost the ball — we’re working very hard on this aspect.
“I’m pleased because I saw the things that we’re working on this week, but I’m pleased for the players because when you work so hard it’s logical that you want to see a good result in the game. I saw this and I’m very happy for them.
“I changed the system because it’s normal that when you arrive in a new team, you need the time to understand the right characteristics and study the right [solution] for the team. After we conceded a lot of goals I decided to change before the Hull game, and then we continue.
“I think this system suits the talents of all the players — the defenders and also our wingers and strikers. We must continue to work on this aspect, but when I see my players work in this way during the week I’m quite tranquillo, sereno — very happy.”
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Culled from ESPNFC