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Could The Temperament Of Diego Costa Be The Key To Beating Chelsea?

In this week's Premier League review, we look at what's eating Diego Costa (and, more importantly, what other clubs should do about it), why Brendan Rodgers is feeling “absolutely incredible," how to interpret claims of a resurgent Manchester United and more.

Combustible Costa

While we’re quite sure the 19 Premier League managers not called Jose Mourinho are perfectly aware that Diego Costa has a fuse several feet shorter than Tom Cruise in his bare feet, The18 does wonder why more teams haven’t targeted the Brazilian-cum-Spaniard as Sunderland did this weekend. 

Costa was supremely lucky to remain on the pitch following his petulant double-footed lash-out at John O’Shea - a fact only affirmed by Mourinho’s post-match efforts to gloss over the incident (“Was he lucky to stay on? Nah”). Chelsea’s number 19 was only slightly less fortunate to escape with just a Yellow Card for the flailing arm that caught Wes Brown square in the jaw. It was his fifth booking of the season, which sees him suspended for The Blues mid-week game against London rivals Tottenham Hotspur.

Costa has a career disciplinary record of 49 Yellows and two Reds in 175 appearances, or a card every 3.4 games. To put that into some perspective, everyone’s favorite fruit-cake Luis Suarez has racked up a positively pacifist 28 Yellows and zero Reds in 132 appearances for club and country, or a booking every 4.7 games.

Responsible for more than a third of Chelsea’s goals, and with a head hotter than Hansel, Diego Costa is both a major asset and a potential headache for Jose Mourinho going forward. More teams should seek to get under his skin.

Brendan Rodgers: A Glass-Half-Full Type

"I thought the players were absolutely incredible. I thought we fully deserved it and to keep a clean sheet against a very good side was pleasing.”

Goodness, Brendan Rodgers talks a good game, doesn’t he? Need we remind you, the “very good side” Rodgers refers to is Stoke City. The same Stoke City that have failed to win any of their last 29 league visits to Anfield and haven’t scored a solitary goal in the last nine. 

That “absolutely incredible” and “fully deserved” 1-0 victory saw Liverpool register fewer shots than their visitors, fewer passes and a lower percentage of possession, while it took The Reds more than an hour to muster a shot on target. 

Nevertheless, it’s a win that relieves some of the pressure that is clearly starting to tell on Rodgers, while also putting Liverpool closer to Champions League qualification than the relegation zone. Saturday’s team selection was, however, a sad indictment of their summer transfer spending. Of the £117m Liverpool spent this pre-season, only £4m (Ricky Lambert) was trusted with the job of delivering a much-needed win this weekend.

Business As Usual For United? 

With their 3-0 dismembering of Hull City, Manchester United have now won three Premier League games on the bounce for the first time in 2014, and suddenly it’s “business as usual” at Old Trafford. Which, of course, is presumptive bollocks.

What the myopic pundits seem to be forgetting is that two of those three victories came against Crystal Palace (haven’t beaten United since 1991) and Hull City (haven’t beaten United since Jesus was in shorts), while the other was against an Arsenal side who have only beaten United once in 14 matches but could still have been three up within 20 minutes last weekend.

The18 will begin to take the “resurgent United” line a little more seriously if they notch up a couple more wins against Stoke mid-week and, more tellingly, Southampton next weekend. They’ll likely have to do so without Angel di Maria and possibly in-form Wayne Rooney, who van Gaal says “has already told me he wants to play, but Rooney always says that.”

City Slickers

Having secured impressive back-to-back victories against Bayern Munich in the Champions League and Southampton in the EPL, and with an up-coming fixture list that reads like a who’s who of mediocrity (Sunderland, Everton, Leicester City, Crystal Palace, West Brom, Burnley), are Manchester City in danger of putting together the sort of run that could dislodge Chelsea from the summit of the Premier League table?

Falling Down 

In contrast to their conquerors this weekend, The18 suspects the next few weeks will likely see a steady decline in the heady league position Southampton have managed to cling to for so long. Following their 3-0 defeat this weekend to City, The Saints must now face Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea and Everton before playing Arsenal and Manchester United again, all within the space of six weeks. 

Their strong start to the season had been due to a potent combination of sterling play and a relatively sedate fixture list; at least half of that equation is about to change markedly.

Giving Thanks For Roy Keane's Resignation

Having been responsible for conceding the 87th minute penalty that denied Aston Villa their first win in nine games, we’re fairly sure the family and friends of Villa defender Jores Okore said a quiet prayer of thanks that Roy Keane resigned as Assistant Manager on Friday.

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