Simeone weighs unleashing Diego Costa against Arsenal in first leg

David Hytner on 25 April 2018

Diego Simeone says Diego Costa is ready to make his presence felt against Arsenal once again, after he included the striker in his Atlético Madrid squad for the Europa League semi-final first leg at the Emirates Stadium on Thursday.

Simeone said as recently as last weekend there was “no chance” that Costa could feature in the first leg because of the hamstring injury that has ruled him out of the club’s past three matches. But Costa trained hard on Tuesday and Wednesday, and Simeone faces a decision over whether to start him or use him as a substitute.

Costa faced Arsenal on six occasions during his three-season spell at Chelsea, which ended last September when he returned to Atlético in a £57m deal; he was ineligible to play for them until January as the club served a transfer ban.

The 29-year-old scored three goals against Arsenal, including the winner at the Emirates Stadium in January 2016 but, most notoriously, he helped to get Gabriel Paulista sent off in a stormy Chelsea victory at Stamford Bridge in September 2015.

Simeone was asked whether Costa had travelled to give Atlético a boost, because he was ready to play or in order to intimidate Arsenal. “Knowing Diego, I think all of those apply to him,” the Atlético manager said. “In England and Spain, many teams have suffered at the hands of Diego. It is not just Arsenal.”

Costa looked sharp and he went through a full range of movements in Atlético’s session at the Emirates on Wednesday night. As ever, he will want to start. “I will be looking to help the team in the best way possible,” Simeone said. “I won’t look to make Diego happy.”

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