11 Dec Costa the Gladiator
Antonio Conte believes he has convinced “warrior” Diego Costa to ignore the sideshow of niggling opponents and focus instead on simply scoring goals.
Arch wind-up merchant Costa curiously still remains without a red card in Premier League football, despite rolling out every trick in the book to unsettle the opposition.
The 28-year-old hitman has parked some of that gamesmanship however, blasting 11 league goals so far this term as Chelsea have won eight Premier League matches on the spin.
Chelsea host West Brom at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, with their Italian manager Conte desperate for Costa to remain on the straight and narrow.
“I think Diego is a real warrior; he’s good for the team, because it’s important to have many warriors during the game,” said Conte.
“Every game is a battle – a sporting battle – and it’s important to have warriors in your side.
“Diego is showing his great passion, and that he can put his passion in the team in the best way. It’s fantastic for him and for us, the team, the club and the fans.
“He’s playing very well and we’re working a lot to involve him in our play. He’s improving a lot, Diego.
“In every game I ask the same things of my players: be focused on the game, be focused to play football. Only this.
“The other situations don’t matter. It’s important to be focused on the game. I always ask this of my players before every game.”
Costa has appeared far more hell-bent on goals above all else under Conte this term, whereas at times he cut a distracted, frustrated figure as Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea tenure crumbled last season.
Conte believes the Spain striker’s form comes down to maintaining the right levels of focus on the rudiments of his game, that in turn lead to goals.
“It’s important to be focused on the game, on the pitch, to do some movements, to put himself in the best way in every moment of the game,” said Conte.
“To think, to think a lot, to be involved in the game. It’s important.
“If you have to think about the game and try and find the right movement, it’s important this.”
Chelsea will bid for a ninth-straight Premier League win against West Brom on Sunday, to follow up their crushing 3-1 win at Manchester City.
Blues boss Conte insists his side are not title favourites and also believes no side could crack the 100-point barrier in the Premier League.
Chelsea hold the league’s points-tally record with 95, while Conte guided Juventus to a European-wide points record of 102 in 2014.
Asked if he could repeat that Juventus feat in England, Conte replied: “No, it’s impossible. Now, I think it’s impossible.
“Now, the present is this season and, for sure, in the future, it would be very, very tough to achieve this: 100 points is very difficult.
“Every single game is very tough. To have won eight games in a row is fantastic, fantastic, because this league, in every game you have to fight a lot.
“You can win 2-0, but it’s very difficult to manage the result in England.
“This is the great difficulty. In other countries, also in Italy, if you are 2-0 up after 50 minutes, it’s very difficult for the result to change. You are able to manage the result tactically.
“I think this number 95 (Chelsea’s points record) is a fantastic number. You can see in the past the title has been won with 85, 87 points and it’s very difficult to get above 90 points.
“But, for us, it’s important to see and play game by game. Don’t look too far ahead. Be focused game by game. If we are able to take three points, it’s important.”