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Chelsea manager has no concern over Costa ban

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte will not ask Diego Costa to tone down his aggressive style on the pitch.

Published: 16th September 2016 07:54 AM  |   Last Updated: 16th September 2016 07:54 AM   |  A+A-

Chelsea-AP 4

Chelsea's team manager Antonio Conte gestures during the English Premier League soccer match between Chelsea and Burnley at Stamford Bridge in London, Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016. | AP

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte will not ask Diego Costa to tone down his aggressive style on the pitch, despite him picking up three -yellow cards in his first four games of the Premier League season.

Ahead of a crucial early-season clash against Liverpool at Stamford Bridge tonight, Conte said he was "not worried" about the prospect of a suspension, but did warn his striker to "show his passion in the right way".

With four goals for his club and another two for Spain, Costa has been one of the players of the season so far, and provides Chelsea's best chance of puncturing Jurgen Klopp's rapidly improving Liverpool.

But he was arguably lucky to stay on the pitch in both the first two games of the season, with a reckless challenge against West Ham United goalkeeper Adrian and a possible dive against Watford both going unpunished.

On each occasion, Costa had already been booked for dissent, and after being booked again during the 2-2 draw against Swansea on Sunday, he will receive an automatic suspension if he receives two more yellow cards before the end of the year.

"But I'm not worried about this," Conte said. "Diego, we all know him. He's a passionate man. I want him to put this passion in his football when he plays. It's important to show his passion in the right way, and he is doing this."

Chelsea fans often argue that Costa's reputation for skulduggery precedes him. They also point to the fact that he has not been sent off in the Premier League since coming to England two years ago, whilst far more cherished players - Juan Mata, Santi Cazorla, Philippe Coutinho and Cesc Fabregas, to name just a few have.

But Conte may just have his own reasons for indulging him. Costa does not just commit fouls, he induces them. He does not just receive cards, he draws them. And in a team who last season were often accused of lacking fight, Costa brings a kind of natural scrappiness, an ambient raising of the temperature that, when channelled in the right direction, usually does his team more good as harm. Conte even admitted he was not averse to the occasional "necessary" booking.

"It's very difficult to talk and tell your player to pay attention because if you have two more yellows, you are banned," Conte said. "I think that Diego knows this, and it's important not to get yellow cards for 'strange' situations. Only for a tackle. For necessity, it's good."

Instead, it is at the other end of the pitch that Conte may well have the biggest headache. Only Manchester City have scored more goals than Liverpool this season, and in the front three of Coutinho,

Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino, boast one of the quickest, most devastating front lines in the country. Compounding the threat is the fact that John Terry is injured and his replacement in defence will be a man making his second Chelsea debut: one David Luiz.

Conte sprang enthusiastically to the defence of Luiz, re-signed from Paris Saint Germain for pounds 32 million in a surprise deadline-day transfer, when his credentials were questioned. "I repeat: he's a good player," he insisted.

"He played in the national team 100 times, and won a lot. It's enough. He was the captain of Brazil and he played in a great team who won a lot in his career. When you win, you are a good player."

By which measure, Wes Brown's five Premier League titles must make him one of the greatest defenders ever to have played the game. But perhaps Conte's record and reputation, as a manager who erects cast-iron defences wherever he goes, allows him the benefit of the doubt on this occasion. Besides, it is teams and not individuals who concede goals, and Chelsea's record of just one clean sheet in four games hints at a wider unease.

It has been a strange sort of week for Chelsea, who for the first time in the Roman Abramovich era are not in the Champions League. "Not good, watching the competition on television," Conte admitted. "For this reason we must work very hard to make sure that next season we are in this tournament. Chelsea must play in the Champions League." Tonight will give us a decent idea of whether Chelsea are ready for a return to the big time.

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