Roy Hodgson hopes referee Paolo Mazzoleni will punish Diego Costa if he steps out of line during England’s friendly against Spain on Friday.
Costa has earned a reputation as something of a wind-up merchant due to his attempts to get under defenders’ skin.
Arsenal defender Gabriel was sent off earlier this season for clashing with the 27-year-old and he tried to provoke Ryan Shawcross during Chelsea’s defeat to Stoke last weekend by grabbing the centre-back’s jaw before telling him rather impolitely that he had bad body odour.
Hodgson is a fan of Costa, but the England manager admits he will be looking for the officials to step in if the striker misbehaves.
“I wouldn’t dream of suggesting he’s going to try underhand methods,” Hodgson said. “Let’s hope he doesn’t and if he does we’re just going to have to deal with it and hope the referee deals with it like they do every week in the Premier League.”
Costa is not the most popular player outside of Chelsea, but Wayne Rooney is also a big fan of the controversial forward.
“I actually voted for him as player of the year last season because I think he was a huge player for Chelsea,” the England captain said of Costa, who scored 20 goals in his maiden season for the Blues.
“I think what Chelsea missed the season before was that fight up front and he gave them that and I strongly believe that’s why they became champions.
“Obviously it hasn’t gone as well as it did last season for him but I think he is a fantastic player.
“He’s a fighter and I think that’s part of his game and it going to be very difficult for anyone to ask him not to do that.
“I feel that’s in him – that fight. He thrives on that and that gets his team-mates going as well.”
Rooney will not start Friday’s game on the Costa Blanca as Hodgson wants to save him for next week’s friendly against France at Wembley.
Jamie Vardy suffered an injury in training earlier this week so he is “unlikely” to play according to the England manager.
That means Harry Kane will lead the line at the Estadio Jose Rico Perez.
Ross Barkley will also start just his sixth game for the national side against the star-studded European champions.
Defeat against such an illustrious side would not be the worst thing in the world – particularly when Hodgson has 15 squad regulars unavailable through injury.
But the players are keen to prove they can cut it against one of the best teams in the world.
“The attitude in training over the last two days has been really good,” said Hodgson, whose team are unbeaten in 15 matches.
“The quality has been excellent. The players look sharp, determined, and I don’t see any signs of them wanting anything other than a victory over the mighty Spain on Friday night.”