Chelsea manager Antonio Conte says that Diego Costa is fit again and will return to the matchday squad for Sunday’s visit of Hull City.
The Spain striker, who was left out of the squad for last week’s trip to Leicester amid reports of a row with a fitness coach over a back injury along with reports of a lucrative offer from Chinese Super League club Tianjin Quanjian.
Conte insisted that Costa’s absence was simply due to his back problem and had nothing to do with a purported from from the Chinese Super League outfit.
“He’s available for the game against Hull City,” Conte said. “He started training on Tuesday with the rest of the team, and he trained very well. He’s in good fitness. He has no pain in his back.”
Asked if Costa has been distracted by interest from China, Costa added: “I think the player wants to stay at Chelsea. He’s very happy to play with us. This idea is far [away] in his mind. He’s happy. He’s happy to stay here and play with us. This is the most important thing.”
Conte also said that the form of his attacking players means Costa is not guaranteed an return to the starting line-up.
“I will see on Sunday,” Conte said when asked if Costa will start against Hull. “I don’t want to give an advantage to our opponents.
“For me, to make a decision at the moment is not simple, not easy. I have four or five very good players who are strong in that position: Pedro, Hazard, Willian, Costa and also Ruben [Loftus-Cheek]. It’s not easy because they are in good form and give me different options. I’m pleased for this.
“When you have many players to choose from, it’s good. For sure, I sleep some hours less to make the best decision, but this is my task. To pick the best players game by game, and to see. For this reason, it’s important to know that I hope to pick three players.
“If someone stays out, it’s not a punishment or for ‘other stories.’ It’s only because, at this moment, I see some players not in better form than others, but I like to make choices game by game, and also to consider the opponent. That’s very important for me. But, now, it’s difficult for me to make this decision.”
There have been suggestions that Chelsea might make an improved contract offer to Costa, but Conte said he was focused only on the present.
“I think now is better to be focused and concentrate on the present, not the future,” he said. “Now it’s important he has these four months in a very strong way, and then we’ll see. It’s important now to be focused on the present and not see too far [into the future], in my opinion.
“Diego is a good player, a good person, and now he’s only focused on Chelsea and to play with us, and continue to help us. I repeat: he missed only one game, the last game, and now he’s ready to come back with us.
“I’m sure about his commitment, his behaviour, his will to fight with this team and to try, together, to fight until the end to try and win the title.”