CHELSEA face fielding a depleted side in Saturday’s Premier League summit clash with Manchester City after striker Diego Costa was last night charged for an alleged stamp on Liverpool’s Emre Can.
Costa faces a minimum three-match ban if found guilty of violent conduct, after referee Michael Oliver was yesterday given the chance to view an incident he missed during Tuesday’s Capital One Cup semi-final.
That would see the Brazil-born Spain international miss the visit of City, Chelsea’s closest challengers at the summit of the top flight, as well as fixtures against Aston Villa and Everton.
He was not charged for another alleged stamp in the same game, on Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel, and has until 6pm today to respond to the charge. If he denies it, a hearing will take place tomorrow.
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho defended his player after the tempestuous 1-0 win, insisting any contact with Can or Skrtel had been “absolutely accidental”.
He also issued a stinging rebuke to an unnamed Sky Sports pundit, understood to be Jamie Redknapp, accusing them of unfairly vilifying Costa, and then turned fire on Brendan Rodgers after being informed the Liverpool boss had described the incidents as “nasty”.
Mourinho had earlier been fined £25,000 by the Football Association for claiming that his team were suffering refereeing injustices because they were the victims of a “campaign” of negative coverage.
He made the comments after last month’s 1-1 draw against Southampton and reprised the theme after Tuesday’s success against Liverpool.
Costa is not the only Chelsea player at risk of missing the high-profile weekend contest at Stamford Bridge, with midfielder Cesc Fabregas and defenders Filipe Luis and Branislav Ivanovic all sustaining injuries in the midweek contest.
Mourinho said Fabregas had been withdrawn as a precaution after telling the bench he felt the onset of a hamstring problem, Filipe Luis limped off with a calf injury and Ivanovic played on despite heavy bleeding from a cut to his foot.
City’s visit has significance beyond the title race, as Chelsea’s all-time record goalscorer Frank Lampard is poised to return to his former club for the first time.
The midfielder, on a season-long deal with City before joining sister team New York City FC, scored the equaliser in a 1-1 draw with the Blues in Manchester in September.
HOW PROCESS WORKS
■ Unlike in the Premier League, where a three-man panel of former officials decide whether a player should be charged, the Capital One Cup is run along Football League rules
■ These state that the referee is asked whether he saw the incident in question during the game and, if not, allowed to view video footage of it and make an assessment of appropriate action
■ The Football Association’s fast-track disciplinary system ensures that a final decision over Diego Costa’s availability to face Manchester City will be made before the weekend