With six matches to play in the Premier League season, Tottenham Hotspur are just four points back of Chelsea and are flying high in their recent form. They’re putting teams to the sword and not bothering to catch their breath before moving on to the next target. This week, both Spurs and Chelsea take a break from the title chase to settle the little matter of who gets to play in the FA Cup final at the end of the season. Ahead of what is being billed as one of the biggest domestic cup matches in recent memory, I sat down with David over at our SBN sister site We Ain’t Got No History to talk about the title chase, why Antonio Conte loves hats, and the psychological effects that a win or loss will have on both sides.
CFC: Are you nervous? I know I am. You have to be nervous, right?
WAGNH: Nah. (Yes.)
On a scale of 1 to Neymar, how annoying is Diego Costa right now and is there something really wrong with him? Or is it just him looking forward to a Chinese fortune?
The thing is with Costa that he's always putting in plenty of effort (even when rumors of China or Spain have been swirling), it's just that sometimes he concentrates his efforts on all the wrong things (provocations, childish playground behaviour, etc). While that side of his game was actively cultivated by Mourinho, the two coaches we've had since, Hiddink and Conte have proven that Costa can be just as effective without the constant shenanigans and sideshows. Lately however Costa has slipped back into his old bad habits, and whether by coincidence or by consequence, the goals have dried up as well. Combine that with arguably his worst performance in a Chelsea shirt this past Sunday against Manchester United, and Diego's sorely in need of a few goals to make sure he ends his Chelsea career on a positive note.
Why does Antonio Conte wear a hat with a three piece suit? Also, did you ever expect him to get it so quickly with this squad and fixing the issues?
What Conte's done so far is nothing short of amazing, but now that the expectations have been raised, he cannot afford not to walk away with at least one trophy. He knows this and the squad do, too, as the main message has changed from working hard and improving to dealing with pressure and winning.
The hat is a weird thing, but I suspect he's quite conscious of his hair.
Why was Eden Hazard so bad last year and found such amazing form this year with the changing of the guard?
Hazard often gets compared to the likes of Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, but while Cristiano's a robot and Messi's an alien, Hazard's just your every day easy-going dude who likes to play football and hang out with his kids and family. When things are fun and happy and full of winship, Hazard tends to be at his best. When things are less fun, he tends to not apply himself as much as he could. He's probably not unique in this respect — this is, after all, just a job for these guys — but because he can be so unplayable at his best, when he's not at that level, we all notice it.
It also helps that he's been injury-free this season unlike last, that he's been playing with a proper left back for only the second time in his Chelsea career, and that Conte has not only given him essentially a free role but has increased his actual tactical knowledge of the game.
We know this is the FA Cup, but psychologically do you think there will be ramifications for the title chase based upon the result?
Very much so, yes. It's all about confidence at this point. (Well, okay, it's about other things, too, but it's not like this game is being played in a vacuum.)
Has Michy put in a transfer request after Loftus-Cheek was picked over him and, seriously, can we have him? He looks bored.
By all accounts Michy keeps quite busy with the Twitters and Snapgrams and whatnot. Beyond that, his fate, just like his season, is a giant mystery.
Does Eric Dier have any chance of getting Costa sent off or vice versa, given we're all expecting this match to be a bloodbath?
Considering that Costa has 4 yellows and 0 goals in his last 6 games, he's either overdue for a hat-trick or he's building up to a spectacular, first-ever red card in Chelsea colors. I'm hoping for the former but fearing the latter.
What's the status on Courtois and the various players who were bitten by the flu bug?
Courtois is "confident" he'll be fit, though there are conflicting reports about the likelihood of that happening. Most seem to think he'll be ready, bum ankle and all. The others are all back in training and operating at some level above walking dead status. To be sure, we'll be steering well clear of lasagne.
Any surprises for a lineup or is this going to be full strength 3-4-3 Chelsea?
The 3-4-3 is what got us here, so chances are we'll stick to that. However, considering that Spurs were the only team all season to cause problems for Chelsea in both league meetings, Conte will have to figure out a few new wrinkles to deal with Pochettino's tactics
Prediction? (Besides body parts and blood splatter all over the place.)
I'd love to say pass, because whatever I say will inevitably be wrong. 2-1, good guys.