Lopetegui: We must love Diego Costa the way he is

Julen Lopetegui fears Diego Costa's reputation could come back to haunt him, but accepts the striker the way he is.

Spain coach Julen Lopetegui has defended Diego Costa in the wake of the 1-1 World Cup qualification draw with Italy, but has admitted the Chelsea striker's actions on the pitch could hurt him and the team.

Lopetegui opted to withdraw Costa halfway through the second half with the striker in danger of a red card after receiving a booking shortly before the half-time whistle.

The Spain boss is confident Costa can still change his behaviour, but is adamant they must accept the striker the way he is.

"Players keep developing right until they retire. You can change in a positive way if you make the right decisions," Lopetegui told El Larguero.

"Diego has a certain character. He is a fighter. But sometimes his reactions hurt his reputation.

"He will be able to iron out these things as he develops. He is aware of it and so are we. These things can cost him. It could be hurtful to him.

"But we must love Diego the way he is and try to understand him. Any small advantage can make the difference in a tight game."