Jose Mourinho will tell his Chelsea players to forget about Diego Costa when the Premier League leaders take on nearest rivals Manchester City without the suspended striker.
Costa was banned for three matches for violent conduct by the FA after an independent regulatory commission yesterday ruled he deliberately stamped on the ankle of Liverpool’s Emre Can in Tuesday night’s Capital One Cup semi-final second leg.
Costa and Chelsea have no right to appeal, with the immediate ban meaning the indomitable striker is out of matches against 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.
Costa contested the charge but was found guilty and suspended, much to Chelsea’s disappointment.
An FA statement read: “Diego Costa will serve a three-match suspension with immediate effect after a charge of violent conduct against him was found proven by an independent regulatory commission today (Friday, January 30, 2015).
“The incident was not seen by the match officials but caught on video.”
Mourinho has repeatedly told his players to “forget Diego” when the prolific striker has been absent through injury this season and the ban is sure to foster the siege mentality which has built up at Stamford Bridge in recent weeks.
The Portuguese cancelled his usual pre-match media conference after Costa’s charge having last month been hit for a £25,000 (€33,000) fine for stating there was a “clear campaign” against Chelsea.
The absence of Costa, who has scored 17 times in 19 Premier League appearances, is a major blow for Chelsea.
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.
“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.”
Hazard, who Mourinho believes is repeatedly sinned against, could shoulder the goalscoring burden in Costa’s absence, with Didier Drogba likely to be given the lone striker’s role ahead of Loic Remy.
Drogba has scored six times this season but does not present the same challenging proposition for opposition defenders that he once did.
Hazard is comfortable with being bruised and battered, so long as it helps his team.
“If the defenders want to pressure me early on and make me feel heavy contact it’s not a problem,” the Belgium playmaker added.
“If I can get a free-kick for my team and the opposition player gets a yellow card or a red card that is good.
“I also like it when the defender goes in hard and commits to a tackle because it gives me the chance to go round him.”
The City clash completes a tumultuous seven days at Stamford Bridge, which saw Chelsea dumped out of the FA Cup by League One Bradford, who inflicted the Blues’ first home loss of the season.
They responded by advancing to Wembley in the Capital One Cup at Liverpool’s expense.
Victory for Chelsea, who enter the weekend with a five-point lead over City, would give them an eight-point advantage with 15 games to go.
Lose and momentum would swing to the defending champions, who have lost their last two matches to Arsenal and Middlesbrough, for whom on-loan Chelsea striker Patrick Bamford scored.
There is the additional sideshow of Frank Lampard, Chelsea’s record goalscorer, returning to the ground where he spent 13 years in a City shirt.
Lampard had said he would never play for another Premier League club, so it will be intriguing to see the reception he receives from supporters who held him so dear for so long.
Lampard scored an 85th-minute equaliser in the corresponding fixture in September, after which Manuel Pellegrini called Chelsea a “small team”.
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.