Football

Costa aims to kill off City's hopes

Costa wants Chelsea to bounce back from Palace defeat in style

Chelsea top-scorer Diego Costa believes the Premier League leaders can effectively end Manchester City's title hopes when the two sides meet at Stamford Bridge tomorrow morning (Singapore time).

The alternative scenario, that fourth-placed City could win and help Tottenham Hotspur close the gap at the top to four points, does not bear thinking about for the Spain international.

The hosts are seven points clear of Spurs, and 11 ahead of City, who drew 2-2 at Arsenal on Sunday after twice taking the lead.

But last Saturday's surprise 2-1 home defeat by lowly Crystal Palace has revived hopes elsewhere that Chelsea could be vulnerable.

That first home defeat since September was also a wake-up call for Antonio Conte's side, who have looked title certainties.

"Now is not the time to let ourselves down," Costa, who has scored 17 league goals this season but only four since Christmas, told ESPN Brazil.

"We should keep our heads up and think ahead for the next game since it will be very important.

"This game against City will be a six-point affair since if we win... they will (effectively) be out of the title race while we keep the advantage."

Chelsea manager Conte has stressed that he does not bear a grudge against Sergio Aguero after the Man City striker sparked a mass brawl with a nasty challenge on David Luiz when both sides last met last December.

Luiz recently claimed that his knee is still causing him trouble following Aguero's tackle, but Conte is keen to move on as the sides prepare to lock horns again tomorrow morning.

"I have a lot of respect for Aguero," said the Italian.

"What has happened in the past is not important."

Chelsea recorded a hard-fought 3-1 win at the Etihad Stadium and Conte expects another tight encounter at Stamford Bridge.

"We have to be cautious going forward because Manchester City are very dangerous on the counter-attack," he added.

"Both teams will try to win the game. It will not be easy because City are a very good team.

"We have not had many days to prepare for the game, but the same goes for Manchester City."

Meanwhile, Brazilian sensation Gabriel Jesus has boosted Man City's title hopes as he returned to training earlier than expected on his 20th birthday, the club revealed on their website yesterday morning.

The striker, who joined City in the January transfer window after they paid Palmeiras an initial £27 million (S$47.2m), made a sensational start to his English career with three goals in five matches, including a match-winning double against Swansea at the Etihad.

His hot streak was stopped in its tracks when he broke a bone in his foot against Bournemouth in mid-February - he was expected to be out for between two and three months.

The City statement read: "Gabriel Jesus stepped up his recovery from injury today (Monday) when he returned to the training field for the first time since February.

"He recently began working in the gym in a bid to keep his fitness levels high - and this afternoon, on his 20th birthday, he returned to the training field just seven weeks after his initial setback.

"And although he didn't take part in full training, focusing instead on some light ball work, it's a sight City fans will nonetheless have been pleased to see.

"We wish Gabriel well in his continued recovery and hope to see him back in a blue shirt as soon as possible." 
- WIRE SERVICES

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