CHELSEA striker Diego Costa last night confirmed his intention to dispute the violent conduct charge he was served in the wake of Tuesday’s tempestuous Capital One Cup semi-final second leg with Liverpool at Stamford Bridge.
The 26-year-old was charged by the Football Association (FA) on Wednesday for an alleged stamp on Liverpool’s Emre Can after referee Michael Oliver had the opportunity to view the incident which he missed during the clash.
The case will be heard by an independent regulatory commission today and if Costa is found guilty the Brazil-born Spain international will face a minimum three-match ban.
The first of these games would see Jose Mourinho’s table-toppers deprived of their 17-goal leading scorer when they host reigning Premier League champions and title rivals Manchester City in tomorrow’s late kick-off.
Costa would also miss matches against Aston Villa and Everton, although it is the City showdown which is likely to be of principal concern inside Stamford Bridge, with midfielder Cesc Fabregas and defenders Filipe Luis and Branislav Ivanovic already injury doubts.
The main striking alternatives in Costa’s absence would be veteran Ivorian Didier Drogba and France hitman Loic Remy, who have 10 goals between them this season, as Chelsea bid to extend their five-point cushion over City at the Premier League summit.
Mourinho was fined £25,000 by the FA on Wednesday for claiming his team were suffering refereeing injustices following a “campaign” of negative coverage, and Chelsea yesterday cancelled their scheduled pre-match news conference ahead of the tussle with Manuel Pellegrini’s side..
The focus on Costa’s disciplinary concerns has overshadowed midfielder Frank Lampard’s first return to Stamford Bridge since leaving for New York City FC in the summer and then controversially joining City on loan.
Lampard is Chelsea’s all-time record scorer after netting 211 goals during a 13-year stint in west London following his £11m move to the Blues from West Ham in 2001. The106-cap ex-England international was also a pivotal figure as the club won 11 major trophies in a silverware-laden era.
His departure and subsequent role in City’s bid to retain their league crown has divided opinion, compounded when he was summoned from the bench to snatch a point for his new employers against his former side in September.
But after insisting he would never play for another English club post-Chelsea, the 36-year-old is set to feature in his inaugural match at Stamford Bridge in opposition colours since the opening day of the 2000/01 season.
Lampard has scored seven goals across all competitions this campaign, including winning strikes against Sunderland and Leicester, although the decision whether he continues his Etihad Stadium ascent rests with the selection policy of City manager Pellegrini.