Football

Three-match ban might Costa Blues

Chelsea enter the Premier League title bout with Manchester City tomorrow morning (Singapore time) without Diego Costa after the striker was banned for three matches for violent conduct.

The Football Association has announced that an independent regulatory commission ruled that Costa (above) deliberately stamped on the ankle of Liverpool's Emre Can in Tuesday's League Cup semi-final second leg.

Costa, who contested the charge, and Chelsea have no right to appeal, meaning that the player is out of matches with City, Aston Villa and Everton.

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho claimed the incident, which occurred in front of the dugouts but was missed by the match officials, was "absolutely accidental", a view which had the full support of the club.

The incident was subsequently reviewed on video by referee Michael Oliver, with the charge following on Wednesday as part of the FA's fast-tracked procedures.

Mourinho cancelled his usual pre-match media conference yesterday after Costa's charge and his own £25,000 ($51,000) fine for stating last month that there was a "clear campaign" against Chelsea.

The ban for the Brazil-born Spain striker is only likely to strengthen the Blues boss' view.

The absence of Costa, who has scored 17 times in 19 Premier League appearances, is a major blow for Chelsea.

The ban prompted Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini to ask Costa to change his game.

The Chilean said: "He has his character, it is not an easy character, but I hope for him that (with) this punishment - and I am not trying to take advantage for the game - it will be a good thing for him to change in the future because he doesn't need to do it in that way because he is a very good player, a top player."

Eden Hazard outlined just what Chelsea would miss, telling chelseafc.com: "He's one of the top strikers in the world. He's a proper number nine.

PROFESSIONAL

"He's a really friendly guy off the pitch. On it, he's a good professional and he gives everything for the team.

"He's an unbelievable striker because he can score at any time."

Hazard could shoulder the goalscoring burden in Costa's absence, with Didier Drogba, who has scored six times this season, likely to be given the lone striker's role ahead of Loic Remy.

Cesc Fabregas (hamstring), Filipe Luis (calf) and Branislav Ivanovic (foot) are doubts.

Gary Cahill is expected to be a substitute once more, with Kurt Zouma continuing in defence. - PA Sport.