Diego Costa to play in mask after breaking nose in Chelsea training
LONDON -- Diego Costa is available to face Newcastle despite breaking his nose in training, but Alexandre Pato is not yet fit to feature for Chelsea as he works through his "second week of his preseason," interim manager Guus Hiddink revealed.
Costa, who is Chelsea's only fully fit senior striker as Loic Remy continues to battle a persistent calf problem and Radamel Falcao remains a long-term absentee with a "very serious" thigh injury, has been a rejuvenated figure under Hiddink, scoring seven goals in nine matches in all competitions.
The Spain international will wear a protective mask against Newcastle after what Hiddink described as a freak collision with academy player Fikayo Tomori during Thursday's training session, but he is still expected to start up front at Stamford Bridge against Newcastle.
"Diego got his nose broken in a duel," Hiddink explained. "It was one of the youngsters of the academy that we like to participate in our sessions. It was not a tough duel but he put his nose on the back of the head [of the other player] in the duel. He was very unlucky and his nose was broken.
"He will return [on Friday afternoon] because we will give him a mask. We're a team with a lot of masks -- a Zorro team! Azpi [Cesar Azpilicueta], [Nemanja] Matic, now Diego. He will come back and do some light training in the afternoon because he must also know how he's dealing with the form and fitting of the mask. Then he will come back to the hotel later.
"It was a very small incident, a duel, nothing, but it's very fragile when you put your nose on the back of the head of a very young man. I think he will be available. We'll see how he will react to a very light session this afternoon. I hope, I'm not sure but I think he will be."
Costa's latest misfortune only increases the focus on Pato's ongoing unavailability. The Brazilian played his last competitive match for Sao Paulo on Nov. 28 and Hiddink says he is still short of the required fitness to feature against Newcastle, but the manager suggested that next weekend's FA Cup fifth-round clash with Manchester City could be a more realistic target for his debut.
"We're now in the second week of his pre-season and he's doing well," Hiddink said of Pato. "Both of them -- [Matt] Miazga and Pato -- are training well and he's doing an extra programme made with the focus around next weekend, so we'll see how his fitness is.
"He's progressing. He came off holiday and of course you can see the difference between the players who are in daily training and one who comes off holiday. But after 10 days he is progressing and we'll see how he will go into the tough programme next week."
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Recent days have seen Remy linked with a move to the Chinese Super League after a deadline day transfer to Leicester City fell through, but Hiddink insists he does not expect the Frenchman to leave Stamford Bridge this month.
"This squad that we have now will stay until the end of the season," he added of Remy. "We have to be very careful, we want to have double covered positions and you don't know what can happen in the future, so I don't see many changes at this moment."
Asked if Falcao could still leave in the coming weeks, Hiddink replied: "He's training, he's in progress. He's not in the Champions League list but we'll see what will happen. First for them it's important after several setbacks to get fit."
Liam is ESPN FC's Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.