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Victory without Costa 'important' for Chelsea manager

Conte doesn't want Chelsea to become dependent on Costa. Credit: PA

Antonio Conte thinks it is important Chelsea have demonstrated they can win without Diego Costa.

The Blues extended their lead at the top of the Premier League to seven points with a comfortable 3-0 victory against Leicester on Saturday, courtesy of two goals from Marcos Alonso and another from Pedro.

Following reports this week that Costa had a disagreement with the Chelsea boss and his coaching staff amid rumours of a big-money offer from a Chinese Super League club, the 28-year-old was left out of the squad at the King Power Stadium. However, Conte insisted his leading goal scorer did not travel because of a back problem.

Nevertheless, Chelsea made light work of Costa's absence as Eden Hazard played centrally, with Pedro and Willian either side of him - as they had done with equal success against Bournemouth on Boxing Day when Costa was suspended.

Conte said:

I think it's important to have another plan, to play without a number nine is another solution. It is important.

We show it against Bournemouth and again we play without a number nine and we won the games 3-0 and 3-0. It is important always to play as a team and then to have a different solution is important for me and for the team.

– Chelsea manager Antonio Conte

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Diego Costa left out of Chelsea squad for Leicester trip

Chelsea striker Diego Costa. Credit: PA

Diego Costa has been left out of Chelsea's matchday squad against champions Leicester.

The striker was not expected to feature in the game and his absence was officially confirmed when the club's team sheet was handed out at the King Power Stadium.

It's understood Costa did not travel with the rest of the squad for the Premier League fixture on Saturday evening.

Chelsea may appeal John Terry red card - Conte

Chelsea captain John Terry argues his case with referee Kevin Friend. Credit: PA

Antonio Conte believes referee Kevin Friend was wrong to send off John Terry in Sunday's FA Cup third-round win over Peterborough and says Chelsea are considering an appeal.

Terry, making his first start since the EFL Cup exit at West Ham in October and first appearance since November, was adjudged to be last man when he fouled Lee Angol and was shown a straight red card by Friend.

Blues boss Conte felt Terry did not make contact with Angol and Branislav Ivanovic was a covering defender.

"I think it wasn't right, this decision from the referee," Conte said.

"He didn't take the opponent and also the second reason was because behind John there was Ivanovic to cover John.

"You have to respect the referee decision, but in this case maybe we will do an appeal for this situation.

"The situation is very clear and I think John didn't deserve this. It's a pity when this happens, because the red card is not good."

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Conte confident of keeping Courtois at Chelsea

Conte rates Courtois as one of the world's finest goalkeepers. Credit: PA

Chelsea head coach Antonio Conte insists Thibaut Courtois is staying at Chelsea despite reported overtures from Real Madrid.

The 24-year-old Belgium international spent three years on loan from Chelsea at Atletico Madrid before displacing Petr Cech as the Blues' first-choice goalkeeper.

Courtois has since been linked with a return to Madrid, with Real, prompting suggestions he could be offered a new contract with Premier League leaders Chelsea.

Conte said:

I think it's not important to clarify the situation. He stays with us and this is the most important thing. The other situations are only speculation.

Thibaut is, for me, one of the best - if not the best - goalkeepers in the world. This season he's playing very well, and you can see that he's not only very good with his hands but also with his feet.

Yes, I think he's a complete goalkeeper. He's a model goalkeeper.

– Chelsea manager Antonio Conte
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