Friday, 18 August, 2017

Departing Diego Costa 'will be missed' by Chelsea

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Lucia Summers | 12 August, 2017, 05:21

Chelsea won the title with two games to spare last season.

Diego Costa will not be part of Chelsea's season-opener against Burnley - just 81 days after he celebrated the Premier League title with his team-mates.

Costa is set to leave Stamford Bridge after Blues boss Antonio Conte told him he is not included in his plans for this season. "It's not easy. It's very important to try to find the right solution, to try to improve the squad, to improve the quality before (we) start the season". He is a great friend who is unfortunately no longer with us.

"It won't be easy to repeat an incredible season like past year", he said.

Chelsea's striker options for the season opener at Stamford Bridge are new signing Alvaro Morata and Belgium global Michy Batshuayi - and Conte has suggested he will start with the new £70m addition from Real Madrid. He will need to get used to the Premier League but then he will perform.

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Speaking at a news conference ahead of the clash with Sean Dyche's side, Conte played down his team's prospects of becoming the first club to defend their title since Manchester United in 2008-09. "I like him and I hope it works out".

The Blues shattered their club transfer record to sign Morata from Real Madrid last month.

Chelsea head into the new season with a squad noticeably short on numbers thanks to several key injuries and difficulties in the transfer market, but Conte insisted that there can be no excuses for his team when the football begins. "He's working very well and starting to understand or idea of football". We want to be competitive and we want to try to fight this season for the title. As you know the Premier League is the main target.

Alvaro Morata has arrived from Real Madrid to plug the gap left by Costa, but Cahill says he will prove hard to replace.

On Friday, Conte on Friday said there was "no news" on Costa and responded "I don't know" when asked when the striker might return to London.

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