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Should Antonio Conte make the bold decision to drop Diego Costa against Tottenham?

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In the midst of, what is turning out to be, quite some title race in the Premier League, Chelsea striker Diego Costa has hit a purple patch of form. 

The Spanish international, who leads the club’s scoring ranks this season, having hit the back of the net on 18 occasions (four goals ahead of PFA Player of the Year-nominated Eden Hazard), has now failed to score in 490 minutes of top flight action.

In Chelsea’s 2-0 weekend defeat to Manchester United, Costa did little to further his cause. Seemingly unable to influence proceedings with his footballing ability, the 28-year-old could be seen carrying out his usual mischievous antics, for which he was duly awarded his eighth yellow card of the season.

Quite incredibly, the Chelsea frontman’s last five Premier League games have seen him commit 19 fouls, and pick up three cautions. In this time he has managed just three attempts at goal, while failing to fashion a single key pass for Antonio Conte’s table-topping side.

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To put the Spaniard’s plight into perspective, since he last scored: Tottenham‘s Harry Kane injured his ankle ligaments, causing him to miss three and a half games; Heung-min Son has scored five goals; Kane has returned to action; Kane has set up one goal and recorded one assist.

Against Jose Mourinho’s United, Costa failed to register a single shot on target, as the London outfit failed to manage a single accurate attempt in a Premier League game for the first time since September 2007 (which, coincidentally, also came against the Red Devils, at Old Trafford).

In addition, he was found responsible for losing possession on 23 occasions. Indeed, six misplaced passes, six unsuccessful touches and ten occasions in which he was dispossessed by an opponent epitomised an afternoon-to-forget for the former Atletico Madrid-man.

Costa’s miserable performances over the last month have to the resurfacing of January speculation, as reported by The Guardian, which linked him with a big-money move to China. While his long-term future is yet to be decided, Conte should undoubtedly consider the centre-forward’s position in the immediate future.

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Lying in the Spaniard’s wake is £31.5 million summer signing, Michy Batshuayi, who is yet to be afforded a Premier League start for his new club.

The former Marseille has made 17 substitute appearances for the league leaders – managing just one goal with this limited time – despite scoring on 17 occasions in 36 Ligue 1 appearances last term.

The Belgian international is yet to be entrusted by Antonio Conte, despite Diego Costa’s misfiring form. Perhaps now, with Chelsea having lost two games on the bounce, would be the best time for the Italian head coach to give him a fair shot at spearheading his favoured 3-4-3 system.

There is nothing to suggest Costa will not return to scoring form just as quickly as he has seemingly lost his scoring touch – after all, he is a player who thrives off frustration.

Nonetheless, with a number of key games remaining this season, starting with the weekend’s FA Cup meeting with title rivals Spurs, now could be the perfect window for Conte to make a tactical switch.

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Chris is the founder of The Boot Room. He is a Swindon Town supporter, having lived in Wiltshire for most of his years. His work has also featured on Squawka, Bleacher Report and Eurosport.

Chelsea

Crystal Palace’s hopes of Ruben Loftus-Cheek return boosted after latest comments

The midfielder is unlikely to get what he’s after at his parent club.

Jamie Watts

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Ruben Loftus-Cheek has boosted Crystal Palace‘s hopes of securing his services for another season, after claiming he will only remain with Chelsea this summer if guaranteed a regular first-team spot at Stamford Bridge next season, in quotes via Sky Sports.

The 22-year-old spent last season on loan at Selhurst Park after making just 31 appearances for Chelsea since his debut in 2014, and his immense talents have earned him a place in Gareth Southgate’s England squad this World Cup.

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“I want to play as much as I can,” revealed Loftus-Cheek. “Even this past season just gone, I didn’t play as much as I would have liked because of injuries. So I still feel I need a proper season of playing, wherever it is.”

Loftus-Cheek made 25 appearances for Roy Hodgson’s outfit last term, and is still unhappy with the amount of minutes he managed, so it’s pretty safe to assume Chelsea – given the disastrous domestic season they’ve just had – won’t be bettering his previous return, or be prioritising taking chances on academy products next season.

And Palace will be keen to offer the stylish midfielder a deal to extend his stay with the former England manager, where, if available, he will continue to be considered one of the first names on the team-sheet.

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Palace are likely to face competition from rival clubs though, as Loftus-Cheek is emerging as a star on the biggest stage of all in Russia; having flourished in his brief cameo against Tunisia. And he’s now considered likely to start against Panama, with Dele Alli nursing a slight injury.

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Aston Villa

Aston Villa could reportedly owe John Terry £560,000 in wages

The owner may have to sell shares in the club.

Jamie Watts

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Aston Villa’s financial mess looks likely to continue, as the cash-strapped club could now owe captain John Terry a whopping £560,000 in wages, unless he transfers to a different club this summer, according to reports from the Telegraph.

Villa are said to have reached an agreement with HMRC to postpone a payment of £4 million last week, but a further payment is expected this week and the club owner Tony Xia may have to go as far as to sell shares in the club to ensure all debts are paid.

The ex-Chelsea legend announced his impending departure from the midlands club last month, after they failed to secure Premier League promotion in the play-offs and his current contract is due to expire at the end of the month. But he is said to be entitled to a further month’s pay.

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His weekly-wage packet was said to be worth £70,000 at Villa Park, meaning the overdue payments from the last two-months add up to over half-a-million for the 37-year-old defender. However, the outstanding July payment will only stand if Terry retires or remains a free-agent, meaning Villa will be keen to land him a new club.

Villa reportedly need £40 million in order to comply with Financial Fair Play regulations (Birmingham Mail), after gambling that they would gain promotion to the Premier League this season.

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Chelsea

England must start Marcus Rashford and Ruben Loftus-Cheek after Panama reveal tactics

England must opt for creativity after the Panama captain’s comments

Jamie Watts

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Panama have revealed plans stifle England with a physical approach in their upcoming clash on Sunday, in quotes from captain Roman Torres on the Telegraph, and Gareth Southgate should ensure the Three Lions’ approach is suited to the style of opponent.

The Central Americans were beaten 3-0 by a star-studded Belgium outfit on Monday in their World Cup debut, meaning a win against England is pivotal in ensuring they remain in the competition beyond the group stages. And England will have a tough task taking the lion’s share of points on the day.

“England are a bit more direct than Belgium. They try to make use of the pace they have. We’ll need to be compact and limit their space,” revealed Torres told the Telegraph.

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And as a result England must employ the right tactics. Creativity and bravery will be key, as they will undoubtedly have the majority of possession, and Southgate will want to make it count. Marcus Rashford and Ruben Loftus-Cheek added instant impetus to a languid outfit, after coming on late against Tunisia.

The team’s performance became full of purpose and directness in the last 20 minutes, with both taking the responsibility of carrying the ball forward and creating, and from that arrived the corner and subsequent winner from Harry Kane.

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The end product from the likes of Rashford was missing in the opening stages of the game also, as team-mate Jesse Lingard squandered a number of key opportunities to put the game to bed early, and Southgate will not want a repeat this time around.

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