Conte keen to put Costa behind him

Chelsea's Diego Costa speaking to the media at Adolfo Suarez Madrid Barajas airport after arriving in the Spanish capital to finalise his transfer to Atletico Madrid. The Brazilian-born Spanish striker scored 20 goals to help Chelsea become English c
Chelsea's Diego Costa speaking to the media at Adolfo Suarez Madrid Barajas airport after arriving in the Spanish capital to finalise his transfer to Atletico Madrid. The Brazilian-born Spanish striker scored 20 goals to help Chelsea become English champions.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Antonio Conte refused to take a parting shot at Diego Costa yesterday, after the exiled Chelsea striker got his wish to rejoin Atletico Madrid.

Chelsea manager Conte fell out with Costa following the Spain striker's attempts to engineer a move away from the London football club last season.

With the row turning ugly, Costa has spent the last few months of his Chelsea career in Brazil after refusing to return to train with the reserves as Conte wished.

The player finally got what he wanted on Thursday as Chelsea and Atletico agreed a deal to send him back to Spain.

Conte was given a chance to take a swipe at Costa at a press conference yesterday, but the Italian took the high road.

"We want to thank him for what he did with this club. We wish him all the best for the future," Conte said. "It's not important (to talk about Costa). I'm not interested to continue talking about this issue."

Chelsea travel to Stoke City in Premier League action today and Conte said Belgium playmaker Eden Hazard is now fit to feature regularly after ankle surgery.

Hazard missed the start of the season before making his first start in Chelsea's midweek League Cup win against Nottingham Forest.

"Eden in the last game played very well. I think he played with good intensity. Now his injury has been overcome," Conte said. "Now we have to play three games. There is the possibility now to try to pick him for these games."

Conte said he is well aware of Stoke's strengths and insisted he will not take the game lightly, as Chelsea attempt to close the three-point gap to leaders Manchester City.

"For sure, it will be a really tough game," he said. "They beat Arsenal and drew against (Manchester) United, they are a very good team. We must pay great attention."

Chelsea will be without centre-back David Luiz, who is suspended after being sent off against Arsenal.

Stoke manager Mark Hughes' concerns are two-fold: He must hope captain Ryan Shawcross recovers in time and find a way to galvanise his side after two poor away defeats, at Newcastle United last weekend and then at Bristol City in the League Cup on Tuesday.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

STOKE V CHELSEA

Singtel TV Ch103 & StarHub Ch228, 10pm.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 23, 2017, with the headline 'Conte keen to put Costa behind him'. Print Edition | Subscribe