FRUSTRATED Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho has laid the blame for the loss of star striker Diego Costa squarely at the feet of Spain head coach Vicente del Bosque as his side prepare to host NK Maribor in the Champions League tonight.
The £32m former Atletico Madrid hitman, who has scored nine goals in seven Premier League appearances, has been troubled by a hamstring problem since his summer move to Stamford Bridge but featured for Spain in their recent Euro 2016 qualifiers against Slovakia and Luxembourg.
Mourinho is convinced Chelsea’s top scorer was mis-treated while on international duty with his exertions exacerbating the injury, and has pointed to his relationship with England manager Roy Hodgson as a blueprint for club versus country dynamics.
“It hurts and you are not happy when you give players in good condition and you receive the players in bad condition,” said Mourinho. “It’s the same problem that he’s having but now an injury, not an almost injury.
“Sometimes you have national coaches and medical departments that want to establish a relationship and they are interested in the players, their condition, their habits. Some others don’t care.
“Since the beginning of the season, I think from all the national teams, I think one phone call from Roy Hodgson. We have a correct relationship. He called me once and the time he called me, it was completely open.
“I’m not the kind of guy to tell the players not to go. I don’t tell the players to pretend they have problems. I like them to go. Our club likes the players to go and we like our players to succeed in the national teams and play in big competitions.”
Chelsea are also without German World Cup winner Andre Schurrle as well as midfield duo John Obi Mikel and Ramires, who are sidelined with foot and groin issues respectively, for their Group G clash.
And despite his charges seizing control of their qualification hopes with victory in Portugal against Sporting Lisbon during the last round of fixtures, Mourinho insists his focus remains solely on the Slovenian champions and not the weekend trip to Old Trafford.
“I do not have Manchester United in mind, I have Maribor in mind,” added Mourinho. “It is important to win, the group is not an easy one.
“Maribor have played eight matches in the Champions League with zero defeats. Celtic, didn’t lose, Sporting, didn’t lose, Schalke in Germany, didn’t lose. When I study them I realise why they don’t lose.
“We have four points which isn’t bad but we need seven out of these three matches. With seven you are not qualified but it gives you a little bit of stability for the second part of the group stages.”
ALL THE STATS AND FACTS ON NK MARIBOR
MARIBOR OFF THE DOMESTIC PACE
Reigning champions NK Maribor head into their daunting clash with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge tonight in mixed form. The Vijolicasti are six points off the summit of the Slovenian PrvaLiga but do hold a game in hand on current leaders Domzale. Ante Simundza’s side lost ground at the weekend after suffering a 2-1 home defeat to Celje, with Luka Zahovic’s strike cancelling out one of Aleksander Rajcevic’s two own goals.
FAR FROM GROUP STAGE REGULARS
Making their first Champions League group stage appearance for 15 years, Maribor are unbeaten in this season’s competiton after successive 1-1 draws against Sporting and Schalke. Zahovic salvaged a last-gasp point against Lisbon while Damjan Bohar scored in Germany.
CELTIC WILL RECALL MARIBOR WELL
Skipper Marcos Tavares scored the only goal of the game as Maribor stunned Celtic at Parkhead in August to secure their passage to the Champions League group stage. Maribor had already navigated two previous rounds before a 1-1 home draw against the Scottish Champions left the tie on a knife-edge.
ENGLISH FOES HAVE FALLEN BEFORE
Maribor came up against English opposition in last season’s Europa League group stage, losing 3-1 to Wigan Athletic at the DW Stadium before exacting some revenge with a 2-1 victory in the return fixture on home soil. Midfielder Zeljk Filipovic completed Maribor’s comeback, which remains the club’s only win against English opposition in six attempts.