Chelsea interim boss Guus Hiddink has backed striker Diego Costa to blast his side to the Champions League quarter-finals after coming under fire from rivals Paris Saint-Germain ahead of Wednesday's pivotal second leg at Stamford Bridge.
A video montage on the French club’s Twitter account yesterday urged followers to “find the imposter” within a series of images of masked superheroes including Costa, who has been wearing facial protection after breaking his nose.
Costa has only scored one Champions League goal for the Blues since arriving at Stamford Bridge in the summer of 2014, although the rejuvenated 27-year-old has netted 10 times in 14 matches since Hiddink returned to the club in December.
PSG manager Laurent Blanc has also warned his players to be on their guard against Costa and be wary of the fiery Spaniard’s ability to rile opponents, although Hiddink has tipped Costa to be the decisive force in Chelsea’s quest to overturn a 2-1 first-leg deficit.
“I’m very proud of him the way he’s playing and, going not over the edge, but he likes to fight in the real way of the game,” said Hiddink. “That’s what we like. I protect him and support him when he’s doing what he has done in my period here.
“He scored recently in not the worst league in the world. In the Premier League he frequently is scoring now, since December. Before he had also this problem of not scoring, as did the team. Let’s see and hope he can make it to the European level as well.”
Costa is fit again after a minor tendon issue ruled him out of Saturday’s Premier League clash with Stoke, while Pedro is also available following a hamstring problem – an injury which has ruled out skipper John Terry.
Chelsea lost to PSG on away goals at the same stage of the tournament last season, while winning the Champions League represents their sole chance of playing in competition next season after a barren league campaign.