London: Diego Costa will not need an operation to solve his ongoing hamstring problem, Jose Mourinho claimed, as the Chelsea manager also insisted the forward will be selected for Saturday's home match against Stoke City.
Costa sat out Spain's Euro 2016 qualifying win over Ukraine and then the 2-0 friendly defeat to the Netherlands over the last week, but Mourinho insisted that the best way to deal with the situation is with Chelsea's current approach. "To work as he does in the season, in prevention to make the muscle stronger, but at the same time elastic and flexible," the Chelsea boss said.
"Recover well with no big accumulation of fatigue. This is what we do. We don't believe in operations. Our medical department and myself, we believe an operation is the last resort for every injury, so we try and be conservative, to train and recover and try and compensate the problems."
"I don't believe we'll ever go in the surgery direction. It was the same injury, a hamstring, and he dedicated himself to recovering," Mourinho said of Costa's international absence. "No days off," the medical department were saying. Morning, afternoon, working hard. We can say we did all the tests and scans to confirm, two days ago, scientifically the situation and at this moment the muscle is fine.
"But football is more than that: you need confidence, to believe that you don't need to break your intensity and are free to express yourself at the maximum intensity, and that's our doubt. "We'll see the next 24 hours. But selected? That's for sure."
Hazard set to start
Mourinho also expects Eden Hazard to start against Stoke, despite complaints of fatigue during the week following the international break. The forward was involved in Belgium's 5-0 win over Cyprus, and then the 1-0 win over Israel, in their Euro 2016 qualifying group.
"Hazard is tired because he played two matches in three days because he played in Israel, travelled, didn't sleep, arrived in Belgium 5am or 6am, and he's been playing. "We think he can recover in these couple of days, but he plays tomorrow.That's football. Otherwise, Chelsea have no injuries, but John Obi Mikel is not yet fit enough to be involved."
Mourinho also claimed the title race has now extended to four teams, given how tight the top is, and refused to do what he did in 2004-05 and predict a date Chelsea would win the league. "Four [teams] now," Mourinho said, with the two Manchester clubs and Arsenal all giving chase.
"Look at the points difference. You have to say four now. Not five, because there's a gap from fourth to fifth and, with eight matches to go, that's a difficult game from first to fifth. But the points difference between second, third and fourth makes me think and feel that they are there. We need six victories and one draw from nine matches. A good situation for us, and one all the other clubs would like to have. But it's pure mathematics. We need to win six matches and draw one."
"We need to do that, and we haven't done it yet." Asked whether he could put a date on the day they'd win the league, he said it's 'too early'. But if we're champions in the last match, I'm more than happy with that. I'm not thinking about how or when. I'm just thinking that we need to win six matches and draw one. Every victory we have now is one victory less that we need, and one less occasion for our opponents to reach us. We have to go."