Jose Mourinho’s relationship with Diego Costa came under renewed scrutiny after the Chelsea manager dropped the striker for Sunday’s 0-0 draw at Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League.
The point left the reigning champions languishing in the bottom half of the table, while Tottenham — now unbeaten in 13 league games — were left frustrated after failing to take a chance to put pressure on the top four.
But it was Mourinho’s decision to leave Costa on the bench, having clashed with the Spain international at half-time of the mid-week Champions League win away to Maccabi Tel Aviv, that drew most attention.
It clearly angered the striker, who tossed his bib towards Mourinho as the game neared its conclusion, but Mourinho said: “If he wants to hurt me, it’s not with a bib. I have a good relationship with him, no problems.
“I think Diego is very privileged because he was the last one to be (put) on the bench.
“Everybody was on the bench. I kept him in the team for all these matches and today we thought the best strategy to play was this one. We are happy with the decision.”
Mourinho described the visitors’ display as “the best Chelsea performance of the season”, but opposite number Mauricio Pochettino was frustrated that Spurs had not emerged victorious.
“Chelsea had only one shot on target and it was a good save from Hugo Lloris,” said the Argentine.
“They did not do much to win the game. We deserved more. We tried to win it. I think Chelsea will be happy with the point. It is more important to them than us.”
Chelsea captain John Terry was also absent for the visitors after failing to recover from the ankle injury he picked up during the 4-0 victory in Israel.
That meant Kurt Zouma and Gary Cahill were paired at the heart of the visitors’ defence, while Eden Hazard was pushed forward to fill the hole left by the brooding Costa.
Begovic denies Son
Tottenham also came into the game on the back of a long trip, having travelled to Azerbaijan to face Qarabag in the Europa League on Thursday.
Pochettino had complained about the possible effects on his players of making such a demanding journey just 72 hours beforehand, but still opted to retain eight of his mid-week starting XI in his line-up.
It initially appeared as though the home side were still working the journey out of their system as Chelsea started with an energy that has been too often missing from their play this season.
Hazard’s movement up front, together with Pedro Rodriguez’s penetrating runs down the left flank, clearly unsettled Pochettino’s team.
Chelsea, though, were unable to find the finish that might have given them the breakthrough, with Mourinho’s side failing to muster a single effort on target during the first half.
Hazard was guilty of wasting their best opportunity, the Belgian heading over from Pedro’s cross when unmarked in front of goal.
A high-tempo game lacked quality and Tottenham’s efforts in front of goal mirrored those of their opponents, although it took an excellent save by Asmir Begovic to repel Son Heung-Min’s header from Harry Kane’s cross.
The second period followed a similar pattern, with both teams struggling to impose themselves in a game that grew increasingly scrappy.
Hazard finally conjured Chelsea’s first effort on target when he met Branislav Ivanovic’s deep cross with a powerful left-foot volley that Hugo Lloris did well to tip away for a corner.
Tottenham’s best chance after the break again fell to Son, who shot tamely at Begovic after working a clever one-two with Erik Lamela, on as a second-half substitute for the injured Ryan Mason.