Chelsea boss Antonio Conte has insisted that striker Diego Costa is being targeted by opposing sides and wants referees to offer him more protection.
The Spaniard bagged a brace in the 2-2 draw with Swansea City on Sunday, taking his tally for the season up to four Premier League goals.
However, as well as being booked himself, he was involved in all three of Swansea’s three yellow cards, with Conte under no illusions that they were targeting Costa and looking for a reaction.
Given his track record and disciplinary issues, it’s no real surprise to anyone if this was a genuine strategy from the Swans, but the Chelsea boss wants to avoid situations where Costa is purposely being singled out.
“Diego Costa had fantastic behaviour to control the situation,” he told reporters in his post-game interview. “He took a lot of kicks from the first minute until the end of the game.
“Defenders know him and, sometimes, try to provoke him. I was a footballer and this situation is normal. You know that Diego is a player with passion. The referee must see and allow Diego Costa to play his football.”
Given his form and importance to Chelsea so far this season, the last thing that Conte wants is to see his star forward pick up an unnecessary suspension, either through a reckless red card or an accumulation of cautions.
However, given his questionable temperament, it’s unlikely that he’ll be able to change at this stage of his career and it will continue to be a ploy from rivals to gain an advantage over Chelsea in the weeks and months ahead with many insisting that Costa has warranted a red himself on several occasions already this season.