Derby v Chelsea: Chris Martin revels in Diego Costa role

Chris Martin
Martin scored 25 goals last season, and already has 14 goals this season

Chris Martin is revelling in the responsibility of being the Championship's Diego Costa.

The Derby County striker chuckles at the comparison with his Chelsea counterpart prior to Tuesday's Capital One Cup quarter-final.

But both are spearheading their respective team's magnificent start to the season as a lone striker in a tried-and-trusted 4-3-3 system, both are in superb goalscoring form, both are 26 years old, and both are yet to convince at international level.

And, having found the net 14 times already this season, Beccles-born Scotland striker Martin is actually outscoring the 13-goal Brazilian-born Spain centre-forward.

"It's a massive compliment," Martin told BBC Sport when the similarities in their job was pointed out. "I really like the way he plays and the passion he has got for the game."

Rams role

Martin's role at Derby has been every bit as vital as Costa's much-heralded contribution at Stamford Bridge, leading the line, allowing others to break from midfield with confidence, and helping the team recover from the disappointment of last season's play-off final failure.

Costa is unlikely to start at the iPro Stadium, with Didier Drogba or Loic Remy expected to deputise as the main striker. But he is in the squad and the "Costa" role remains the same whether he starts or not.

And it is something Martin identifies with - and appreciates.

"We are both rough-and-tumble centre-forwards," Martin said.

"He's a focal point. A lot of things go through him. They rely on him to hold the ball up and he is very, very, very good at that. He gets them going forward and moves them up the pitch.

"If I can have even a little bit of the success he has had over recent years then I will be more than happy."

Derby's focal pointChelsea's leader
Name: Christopher Hugh MartinAge: 26Born: Beccles, SuffolkHeight: 6ft 1insClubs: Norwich City and Derby County plus Luton, Crystal Palace, Swindon Town (all loan)Last transfer fee: Free transferLeague goals this season: 12League goals last season: 22Name: Diego da Silva CostaAge: 26Born: Lagarto, BrazilHeight: 6ft 2insClubs: Atletico Madrid, Chelsea plus Braga, Celta Vigo, Albacete, Valladolid, Real Vallecano (loan)Last transfer fee: £32mLeague goals this season: 12Goals last season: 27

Costa's 12 goals in 13 Premier League appearances have taken the Blues to the top of the table, they are through to the Champions League knockout stages as group winners and into a last-eight League Cup tie against Martin's Derby side.

The Rams have dropped from top to third in the league after Saturday's 2-0 defeat at in-form Middlesbrough.

But their system means the similarities between the sides run much deeper than impressive early-season form.

"I enjoy the responsibility that I have to help the team and hold the ball up," Scotland international Martin said.

"How we play with one main striker is something I have never done before but it has suited me and the squad.

"The team relies on me a little bit - and to get the goals as well. Since I have been here I have thrived on that. I am not sure why that is the case but something has clicked."

Flying the nest

A succession of loan deals preceded a full-time move away from Norwich City last summer. After 14 years at Carrow Road he admitted it was a wrench to leave but said the transition was "easier than he imagined".

"It felt strange to start with because from the age of 10 to 24 I only had one permanent club," Martin added.

"I lived 20 minutes down the road, everything was quite good for me and I probably would have stayed much longer if the stars were aligned. But that was not the case and I was very lucky Derby picked me up. It's another massive club."

It was also made a great deal smoother by working for Rams head coach Steve McClaren.

Derby County's Chris Martin battles for possession with Nottingham Forest's Michael Mancienne
Martin credits Derby head coach Steve McClaren with helping him develop as a "rough-and-tumble" centre forward

"He has taught me a lot," said Martin, who grabbed 25 goals last term. "He has been a great help, for me and the whole squad.

"The manager realised the personnel that he had so that's why he changed the shape when he came in. It suited us with Bryso [Craig Bryson], Will [Hughes] and Jeff [Hendrick] getting forward, and the wingers as well.

"He is really in it for the players; he wants to improve us. He tells us that all the time; that is the reason why he is here.

"He is very good psychologically as well; he knows what to say and when to say it. He has really added to my game and has given me the responsibility to express myself.

"I don't feel any pressure from him or any of the coaching staff. There is real belief in the players and that shows."

Derby's Diego
"They're both goalscorers, they're both physical players who make their teams tick and they link the play. Last season showed Chelsea needed a striker like that and look where they are now they've got one. He's in a good side with good players, but he's the man who gets the goals. It's the same at Derby, with the likes of Craig Bryson, Will Hughes, Johnny Russell and Jamie Ward. The talent is there, but Martin is the man who makes it all work."

Playing without pressure will be a rare pleasure. A Chelsea side with just one defeat in all competitions this season will be strongly fancied to reach the semi-finals.

"It will be a little bit strange being a big underdog," Martin said.

"Most of the games - because of how we have started - we are favourites or equal favourites. It could be good because we can express ourselves against one of the best teams in Europe."

International struggles

As for Costa, certain similarities with Martin also extend to international football. Costa had a miserable World Cup, looking shorn of match sharpness in a struggling side.

Martin, who qualifies for Scotland through his father, has won a total of five international caps since making his debut.

But his first start - in the 3-1 home defeat against England last month - did not go well. And Martin led the criticism, describing his own efforts as the "worst he had played for a very long time".

"We didn't play well and I didn't have a great game. I was subbed at half-time and I tried to give an honest assessment," Martin explained.

But Scotland boss Gordon Strachan was more positive.

"I spoke to him a couple of days after," Martin said. "He said 'just keep doing what you are doing. You are in our thoughts. You will get another chance - don't worry'."

A goal or two and a 'Costa-like display' against Chelsea would go some way to convincing the doubters Martin can play at the highest level.

Scotland's Chris Martin in action against England's Gary Cahill
Martin won his fifth international cap for Scotland against England in November
Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard grabs Diego Costa (left)
As well as scoring 12 league goals, Costa (left) has been a spiky presence in Chelsea's start to the season

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