Football

Alderweireld: Costa's good, but I'll stop him

Southampton's Toby Alderweireld began 2014 playing alongside Diego Costa and ends it trying to shackle a player he believes is one of the best in the world.

This has been quite the year for the 25-year-old, having made the loan move to Saints fresh from helping Belgium to the World Cup quarter-finals and Atletico Madrid shock the football world.

Alderweireld was part of the Los Colchoneros side who won a first Primera Division title in 18 years and came off the bench in the Champions League final, where rivals Real Madrid cruelly denied them a famous double.

It took extra time for Real to eventually triumph and things could have been so different had star man Costa not been forced off just nine minutes into what proved his last match for Atletico.

The bustling forward moved to Chelsea in the summer and has justified his £32 million ($66m) price tag, with the Boxing Day strike against West Ham making it 13 goals from his first 15 Premier League matches.

Alderweireld faces the unenviable task of attempting to stop Costa adding to that tally tonight, with the defender well aware of the threat his former teammate poses.

"It is very difficult because he is fast, he is strong, he has technique," he said.

"He can score goals, is good with his head, so I have to be at my best to stop him."

Costa is not the only threat Alderweireld knows all too well about, having this year also played alongside fellow Belgians Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois and former Atletico defender Filipe Luis.

"They are the best players in the world, especially Diego and Eden," he said.

"We have to be at our top level to beat them."

Despite that, he says Southampton will head into the match brimming with confidence after continuing their impressive resurgence at Selhurst Park.

BEST FEELING

Fresh from ending their worst losing streak of the 21st century against Everton, Ronald Koeman's men triumphed 3-1 against Crystal Palace, thanks to goals from Sadio Mane, Ryan Bertrand and Alderweireld.

"It's the best feeling, even for a defender," Alderweireld said, after his first Premier League goal.

"I am very, very pleased that I could help the team and after we made it 3-0 it was over, I think.

"We played very well - defensively it was fantastic and in important moments we killed the game.

"It is very important after a couple of difficult weeks to win again.

"We are getting our confidence back."

Chelsea will be a much bigger test, though, as will having to deal with such a quick turnaround - a new issue for manager Koeman and a number of his players.

"Two days after a game, play another game - that has never happened to me before," Alderweireld added.

"I will prepare myself the best way I can and I hope to be 100 per cent for Chelsea." - PA Sport.