LONDON - Diego Costa may not appear for Chelsea again this season, Jose Mourinho has said, ahead of a summer fitness programme aimed at returning the burly Spanish striker to full strength.
Costa is definitely out of the club's home game at Crystal Palace on Sunday, where a win will see them clinch the title.
And if Chelsea do claim three points, Mourinho says their top scorer will not be risked again this campaign, after a season in which he's been plagued by persistent hamstring problems.
Costa will only play if they do still need a point to win the league against Liverpool next Sunday, but Mourinho confirmed Loic Remy was fit for the Palace game.
"There is a chance he might not," Mourinho said when asked whether Costa would appear in any of their last four games.
"If we win Sunday, I would say he doesn't play against Liverpool. If we don't win on Sunday and we need points against Liverpool, I'd say he would play against them. It's about result after result, needs and needs. If we don't need, probably he doesn't play (again).
"Just it isn't worth the risk. In this process, in the last month, if we lose a game - and we don't want to lose a second - he will be back immediately. Immediately.
"Because the results in the last month were always victories and a draw against the team in second, we don't need to rush. We are trying to give him maximum stability for him to be stronger and stronger. No need for any risk. Remy is back...definitely back.
'Work without fear'
Asked whether Costa would be given a long summer break, Mourinho said: "A good period of work, rather. We are preparing a good working situation for him during the holiday period where he can obviously mix the holiday with work without fear."
Mourinho meanwhile said that Chelsea will assess Didier Drogba's situation during the summer, to see whether he stays another campaign as third-choice striker. He also praised the veteran's contribution.
"The three strikers will always have time and matches, rotation, form, performance, cards, injuries, different competitions... there would always be space and time for all of them. And yes, I was expecting it.
"Important goals he's scored in the Capital (League) Cup. Important goals - not a huge amount - in the Premier League. A great contribution. We have time to speak and analyse his feelings." Meanwhile, Mourinho refused to address questions on Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger's accusation that he had been "disrespectful" to other managers, or that Chelsea had been "boring".
However, he did re-iterate that they would be worthy champions.
"You know, I have no more data to add to what is obvious. You analyse it from every perspective. As I was saying in the last press conference here, analyse in every perspective and you always find a Chelsea very strong in every ranking.
"Goal scoring, goals conceded, the record at home, the record away, the number of victories... by 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. Which is also not obviously a record, because other teams did the same. But I think, especially in modern football, it's something very difficult to do."