By Justin Palmer and Martyn Herman
In-form striker Diego Costa will start for Chelsea, despite a troublesome hamstring, in the Champions League Group G clash against Sporting Lisbon on Tuesday, manager Jose Mourinho said.
“There is a risk, but he plays,” Mourinho told a news conference.
“We assume the risk. Hopefully everything goes well and hopefully from Tuesday to Sunday he has enough period of time to be back on track and to play against Arsenal.”
Costa, with eight goals in six games for the Premier League leaders, was part of a 20-player party that travelled to the Portuguese capital on Monday.
Missing from the squad were striker Didier Drogba, who has been left at home after aggravating an ankle problem, and midfielder Ramires.
‘Drogba is going to be out for a couple of weeks,’ continued Mourinho, with the subject now turning to the Ivorian striker who has not travelled to Lisbon with the squad.
Mourinho said Drogba would be out for a fortnight.
“He had a problem in the training session with his ankle, so it was not possible for him to travel and I think it will not be possible for him to recover for Sunday (when Chelsea host Arsenal).”
Ramires sustained a muscular injury in the Premier League draw with Manchester City on Sept. 21 and missed the weekend win over Aston Villa.
Chelsea were pegged back by Schalke in a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge to open their Champions League campaign and Mourinho predicted a difficult test against a Sporting side unbeaten at home in 16 European games.
“I don’t know the meaning of favourite in a football match. A good result is to win. We will try to win but to desire and to achieve are two different things.
“Sporting has its weapons. A point could be considered a good result for them,” he said.
“Will the team mount its strategy based on the goal of achieving one point? On Friday we saw a team that is not going for a draw. If they stick to themselves and assume their identity then it will be a great match and a great return for Sporting to the Champions League.”
England goalkeeper Joe Hart meanwhile will return for Manchester City in their Champions League match at home to AS Roma on Tuesday after being replaced by Willy Caballero for the last two games.
Hart sat on the bench for his team’s 4-2 win at Hull City in the Premier League and Argentine Caballero, signed from Malaga this year, produced a solid display.
He was also rested for last week’s League Cup thrashing of Sheffield Wednesday and while he is clearly still manager Manuel Pellegrini’s first choice for the big games, he is not a fan of watching from the sidelines.
“Of course, I want to play every game, that is my nature, my professionalism,” Hart told a news conference ahead of the vital game against the Italians in Group E.
“I am not the manager, just a player. I live by the decisions of the manager.
“It is hard for me to see (the positives of being rested). I am sure when I retire from football I will see them but right now I am not going to see them.”
Hart was in superb form in the 1-0 defeat against Bayern Munich in City’s opening game, keeping the Bavarians out almost single-handedly until a deflected winner in the dying seconds.
With Roma also winning their first match, he knows that anything short of victory will leave City with an uphill battle to reach the last 16.
“It is obviously a big game after the disappointing start we had in Munich,” he said. “Roma have been doing very well. We have focused a lot more on them since they were drawn in our group. They got a great result in their opening game.”
While the emphasis in Munich was very much on defence, Pellegrini believes his side have now clicked as an attacking force after a tricky start to the season.
They scored seven against Wednesday and four at the weekend and the Chilean thinks they are hitting their stride.
“I think we are playing well,” he said. “Maybe at the beginning of the season we didn’t score so many goals here at home, especially against Chelsea and Stoke. We scored only one goal in those two games.
“But after that the team returned to its normal performance and at this moment I have a lot of trust in the team because I think we are in a good moment.”