Chelsea striker Diego CostaGETTY

Diego Costa is currently leading the Premier League scoring charts

That was when Diego Costa got himself booked for a needless foul on Joe Ledley and, in the process, earned a one game ban for reaching five yellow cards.

It meant Costa could have a nice, little break and boss Antonio Conte could see how to manage without his star striker – and midfielder N’Golo Kante, who also picked up a fifth booking – for the 3-0 Boxing Day win over Bournemouth.

Both are available again for tomorrow’s visit of Stoke and, more importantly, the crunch trip to Tottenham on Wednesday, where the Blues could very well equal Arsenal’s 2002 record of 14 straight Premier League wins.

One thing abundantly clear this season is just how vital Costa – the Premier League’s top scorer with 13 goals – is to Chelsea’s title chances.

His enforced lay-off gave him two weeks off between games at the perfect time and come next Wednesday he will go to White Hart Lane having played just five games in December compared Harry Kane’s seven for Spurs.

Kane, like Costa, is a striker whose absence would surely wreck his team’s title hopes.

Conte has had plaudits galore this season, but his greatest achievement has been to keep Costa cool.

There has been no nonsense with elbows or hands shoved in faces this season, just intense aggression channelled in exactly the right way.

Take his winner against West Brom earlier this month. He outmuscled and bullied poor Gareth McAuley totally fairly and left him trailing in his wake before blasting into the roof of the net with his supposedly weaker left foot.

His is now the complete centre forward and looking like Chelsea’s best ever, superior to Didier Drogba and even Peter Osgood, who I idolised as a child.

Chelsea striker Diego CostaGETTY

Diego Costa has helped fire Chelsea to the top of the Premier League

Adam Lallana LiverpoolGETTY

Adam Lallana has been one of Liverpool’s key players in their title bid

Why team-mate Eden Hazard is a shorter price to be PFA Player of the Year mystifies me.

Talking of players transformed this season, Adam Lallana, of Chelsea’s closest challengers Liverpool, has been a revelation.

Chatting to a Premier League director of football recently he argued it was Lallana, not Philippe Coutinho, who has been the main man for Jurgen Klopp.

Maybe if Lallana was a foreigner we’d be raving about him much more.

He has scored 10 already this season for club and country in 20 games. His previous 10 took him 83.

Can anyone think of a better-performing Englishman in the top flight at the moment?

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THE new Jamie Vardy movie won’t feature this season’s disastrous showing in the Premier League.

Perhaps it’s just as well that the script is finished, as it would end up being more of a horror film than the football fairytale of last season’s magnificent title triumph.

The champions are just three points off the relegation zone and another bad result, at home to West Ham tomorrow, will see the pressure intensify on boss Claudio Ranieri.

The Italian has to take his share of the blame.

There is a great saying “don’t mend it if it ain’t broke”, but for some reason this season Ranieri seems to have forgotten that.

He has chopped and changed his side and tactics – and yes, obviously there were extra demands with the Champions League this season – but in the process lost the spirit, brotherhood and fire that brought Leicester their fantastic reward.

Maybe it is time for Ranieri to return to playing the men who did so well for him last season in a bid to find that unity that has been so obviously missing so far this campaign.

Source: http://www.dailystar.co.uk/sport/football/573937/Chelsea-news-Diego-Costa-booking-won-the-title