Diego Costa is only likely to feature for Chelsea again this season if they fail to win the Premier League title against Crystal Palace on Sunday, according to manager Jose Mourinho.
Spain international Costa has struck an impressive 19 goals in 24 Premier League appearances, but his debut campaign at Stamford Bridge has been dogged by persistent hamstring and thigh injuries.
The former Atletico Madrid forward has not featured since lasting just 11 minutes as a second-half substitute in the 2-1 victory over Stoke City last month.
Chelsea will win their fourth Premier League title by beating Palace, but Mourinho says Costa will not be involved.
However, the Portuguese could bring Costa in against Liverpool next weekend if they fail to get the job done against Palace.
“No [he will not play against Palace], it isn’t worth the risk,” Mourinho said. “In this process over the last month if we lose a game and we don’t want to lose the second he would be back immediately.
“So because the results in the last month were also victories and a draw against second [Arsenal] we don’t need to rush him. We are trying to give him maximum stability.”
Asked specifically if Costa would play again this season, Mourinho said: “There is a chance he might not.
“If we win Sunday, I would say he doesn’t play against Liverpool. If we don’t win Sunday and we need points he will play against Liverpool.
“We are on result after result, need after need. If we don’t need, he doesn’t play again. [In pre-season he needs] a good period of work. We are preparing a good working situation for him during the holiday period.”
Mourinho, who confirmed that Costa’s fellow striker Loic Remy is fit following a calf injury, believes the fact that Chelsea have not lost to a top-four rival this term is just one of a number of factors that have brought them to the brink of the title.
“I have no more data to add to what is obvious,” he added. “You [the media] analyse it by every perspective.
“Chelsea is very strong in every ranking. Goals scored, goals conceded, our record at home, our record away, number of victories. Every perspective you find a very strong Chelsea.
“That’s why in such a difficult league to win we are top of the league since day one.”