Chelsea striker Diego Costa continues to battle with a back injury that is likely to keep him sidelined for most of the pre-season schedule.
The 27-year-old missed his side’s win over Liverpool in Los Angeles on Wednesday, and will not play any part against Real Madrid on Saturday.
In turn, with the new Premier League campaign just two weeks away, doubts are growing over his ability to feature in the opening game of the season.
Chelsea boss Antonio Conte has made it clear that he will not risk Costa by playing him without seeing him in training, and so it will certainly be a blow for the Italian coach not to have his striker available for selection.
“I have to see the players in training. If I cannot see them in the training session, I cannot put them in a game,” he told reporters at the pre-game press conference ahead of the clash with Real.
“I want to see my players in training, doing the work. If someone is injured or there is some problems and I don’t see the player, then it’s impossible for me to think about putting him in the starting eleven or on the bench.
“This is normal, for me. In the last few days, Diego had pain in his back. So he didn’t train, and for this reason he didn’t play.”
Michy Batshuayi is likely to continue up front, but it’s certainly a major setback for Conte who will hope to rely on Costa this season, regardless of speculation suggesting that an exit is still possible ahead of the transfer window deadline, as noted by The Daily Mail.
Costa will certainly be disappointed as he will now have to play catch-up in terms of fitness and will be at a distinct disadvantage in the coming weeks when it comes to fighting for a place in the starting line-up.
Nevertheless, he will now have no choice but to focus on training and recovering as his misery looks set to continue from the end of last season and having been left out of the Spain squad for Euro 2016.