Diego Costa could return to action for the final match of Chelsea’s tour of the United States against AC Milan on Wednesday, even if his future at Stamford Bridge remains shrouded in mystery. The Spain striker has not featured in Chelsea’s first two matches in the U.S. – a 1-0 win over Liverpool and 3-2 defeat to Real Madrid – after suffering with a back injury. But he is expected to be declared fit for a match that will be the first event held at the new 66,000-capacity U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
Atletico Madrid has pursued a bid to bring Costa back to the club he left in 2014 for much of the summer. And, while Chelsea have resisted that bid and Atletico appeared to have conceded defeat by signing Sevilla striker Kevin Gameiro, Blues coach Antonio Conte suggested on Saturday that he wasn’t sure whether Costa’s future lay with the Blues.
“He didn’t play in these games because of injury and if he solves the injury and I see in training that he is in good shape it can be possible to see him in the next game against Milan,” he said after the defeat by Real Madrid in Michigan. “But I can say only this. Today Costa is Chelsea’s player. Tomorrow if you ask me if Costa will remain with us, I don’t know.”
In Costa’s absence, Conte tried out other attacking options, including Eden Hazard playing in a more advanced role. And the Italian was pleased with what he saw as the Belgian, who had a miserable season last term, scored two late goals to reduce Chelsea’s arrears after trailing Real Madrid 3-0 at halftime.
At the other end, though, there were more concerns. And the performance of his defenders will likely only have strengthened Conte’s conviction that at least one new center-back is required before Chelsea gets its Premier League season underway against West Ham in less than two weeks’ time.
The contest with Milan will be Chelsea’s penultimate game of preseason, with just a match at Werder Bremen remaining on Sunday. While Serie A doesn’t get underway until a week after the Premier League, the season is fast approaching, too, for Milan, which is also goes into the season under a new manager.
And a 2-0 defeat to Liverpool on Saturday in Santa Clara, California, demonstrated that Vincenzo Montella still has plenty of work to do, even if he did subsequently rightly point out that Liverpool benefited from having more games under its belt.
Also like Conte, Montella has had to face speculation over his club’s top scorer last season. Carlos Bacca. struck 18 goals in his first season in Serie A last term, but has been strongly linked with moves away from the club and didn’t travel with the squad to the U.S. Montella, though, sought to clarify the Colombian’s situation after the loss to Liverpool.
“I like strong players and Bacca is a strong player,” he said. “I decided not to bring him on the tour with us because he had a long journey and it didn't make sense to come here to the USA only to play few minutes.”