Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho denied any rift with Diego Costa despite the striker’s unhappy reaction to being dropped to the bench for the scoreless draw at Tottenham Hotspur.
Mourinho admitted the pair had argued at half-time during the mid-week Champions League victory away to Maccabi Tel Aviv and Costa’s mood at White Hart Lane on Sunday suggested he had taken his demotion badly.
The Spain international failed to warm up until told to late in the game, generally looked disgruntled and at one point appeared to toss his training bib in the direction of the manager.
But Mourinho said he had no complaints about Costa’s behavior, saying: “When I asked him to warm up, he did. I put him with Ruben (Loftus-Cheek) and Kenedy, warming up.
“Diego is very privileged because he was the last one to be on the bench. Everyone else has been: the captain (John Terry), (Branislav) Ivanovic, (Gary) Cahill, the vice-captain of England, (Cesc) Fabregas, Pedro, (Eden) Hazard, player of the season, Oscar; everyone was on the bench.
“Diego was privileged because I kept him in the team for all these matches. Today (Sunday) we thought the best strategy was this one.”
Costa struggled with hamstring problems last season, but Mourinho said there were no issues with his condition.
“Physically, he is fine,” said the Portuguese. “No problems. He is working well every day. His mood is positive. He’s always a positive guy in the team.
“I was not expecting to have a player on the bench jumping and singing because he is not playing, unless you’re a kid who has a chance to go on the bench –- Ruben, Kenedy, (who) feel that is one more step. But for a top player, they’re not happy.
“His behavior was normal. He was ready to play when he went to warm up. When I decided not to play him, he went. And probably he is eating while waiting for us in the bus.”
The Chelsea manager joked: “If he wants to hurt me, it’s not with a bib. I have a good relationship with him, no problem.”
– Chelsea ‘a small team’ –
Mourinho described his side’s display as their best performance of the season and believes the club can now start looking up the table after a dismal start.
“If we’d scored a goal, we’d have won,” said Mourinho, whose team have now gone three games without defeat. “We still have a result and a performance and the feeling of ‘the team’.
“After these three results in a row, we can look to December –- when we have three matches at Stamford Bridge and two matches away at Manchester United and Leicester, two of the top teams –- with enthusiasm.
“I’m convinced that, by the end of December, we’ll be in a different position to now and we’ll have shortened the difference to the top teams. At the end of the season our feeling will be a different feeling.”
Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino was left disappointed despite his side extending their unbeaten run to 13 league games, the club’s best run since 1985.
“This is a good thing (that we are disappointed),” said the Argentine, whose side remain fifth in the table.
“We play the champions. It’s good. You got the feeling that Chelsea were a small team, and Tottenham can win every game we play.
“It’s very difficult, though. Not easy. We’re the youngest team in the Premier League and the maturity we showed today we have shown in different games.
“We have to feel happy. It’s a good thing that, maybe, we are a bigger club than Chelsea or that we deserve more.
“We showed good performances in the last few games, and I’m happy, but we have to keep working hard. We’ve only had 14 games in the Premier League and it’s too early to think about the end (of the season).”
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