Antonio Conte was full of praise for Diego Costa after the Spanish striker gave Chelsea a hard-fought victory over West Bromwich Albion on Sunday (11 December). The Italian boss also hailed the contribution of Cesc Fabregas after the midfielder also played a part in the goal just two minutes after coming off the bench to replace Victor Moses.
West Brom looked set to end Chelsea's eight-match winning run following an impressive first-half. However, Costa came to the rescue with only 14 minutes remaining, making the most of a mistake from Gareth McAuley to put his side back at the top of the Premier League with his 12th goal of the campaign.
"He's showing great passion, he likes to play football," Conte said in the press conference when asked about Costa. "He's showing me great commitment and work-rate with and without the ball to help the team. It's important for him to continue in this way, I'm very happy with him. Diego is a great striker and he can continue to improve his football but I'm satisfied with the work we are doing with him and the team.
"January is arriving and it's incredible because after the Arsenal defeat he had four yellow cards, he was on the edge and he continued to stay on the edge. I think he can arrive in January without a yellow card, I hope he can."
Fabregas was dropped to the bench despite playing a key role in the 3-1 victory over Manchester City, setting up Costa's equaliser with a superb pass to inspire the Blues' comeback at the Etihad Stadium. Yet, once again, the former Barcelona and Arsenal star took his opportunity which came from the bench, supplying a long-ball pass which led to the only goal of the game.
Conte has insisted in recent days that he wants his fellow countryman to remain at Chelsea despite speculation linking him with a move away ahead of the January transfer window. Speaking after the game against West Brom, the Italian said that Fabregas once again proved his importance as his intervention helped break down Tony Pulis' side.
"Cesc is an important player for us," Conte insisted. "We all know his quality, it's very clear. Today it was important to change the cards on the table and find a new solution to cut the point of reference for West Brom. I put on a player who is very good technically, and with a great personality."