20 Jan Costa wants to stay
Antonio Conte insists Diego Costa is happy at Chelsea and has no doubts over the striker’s commitment to the Premier League title bid.
The 28-year-old missed last weekend’s win at Leicester with a back injury amid reports of a bust-up with Conte and his backroom staff.
Costa has also been linked with a move to the Chinese Super League, but is available to return at home against Hull on Sunday.
“Yes. He’s available for the game against Hull City,” Conte said.
“He restarted having training sessions on Tuesday with the rest of the team.
“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.
“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 behaviours, his will to fight with this team, to try together to fight to the end to try to win the title.”
Chelsea have a seven-point lead entering this weekend’s fixtures.
Costa, who has scored 14 Premier League goals in 19 games, has also been linked with a return to Atletico Madrid and a switch to Barcelona.
Conte was asked if Chelsea should try to tie Costa down to an extended contract to end speculation over his future.
“I think now it’s better to be focused, to be concentrated on the present, not on the future,” he added.
“Now it’s important to have this four months in a very strong way. Then we’ll see.”
Conte refused to directly address questions over the reported training ground argument and would not confirm if he met with Costa individually this week.
And the Italian was adamant Costa trained on his own on Sunday and Monday, while his team-mates had time off, only to be in the right physical condition to rejoin first-team training on Tuesday.
Conte said: “After the game against Leicester I told you the truth and I repeat: I heard a lot of speculation about Diego.
“But now the most important thing is he trained with us this week and the most important thing is he hasn’t pain in his back.
“He’s available to come back in our squad against Hull City.”
Costa’s selection is not guaranteed, although his only two absences in the Premier League this season were when he was unavailable – suspended against Bournemouth and injured last week.
Eden Hazard played the central role in a front three with Pedro and Willian against Leicester, and Chelsea won 3-0, just as they did against the Cherries on Boxing Day.
“It’s not simple. I have four or five players very strong in that position,” added Conte, including Ruben Loftus-Cheek in the group.
“I sleep some hours less to make the best decision, but it is my task to pick the best players game by game.
“I have to pick three players and if someone stays out it’s not for punishment or for other stories.”
Conte did confirm Chelsea are considering an offer from Bournemouth for second-choice goalkeeper Asmir Begovic, currently back-up to Thibaut Courtois.
Conte said: “Asmir is an important player for me, on and off the pitch. He knows this.
“There is this offer. The club and I are evaluating this offer.”
Conte reported no new injuries, but club captain John Terry is available following suspension and could return to the substitutes’ bench.