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Know Your Opponent: A chat with We Ain’t Got No History

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A midweek visit to Stamford Bridge.

Tottenham Hotspur v Chelsea - Carabao Cup: Semi-Final First Leg Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images

Tottenham Hotspur look to bounce back from their loss at Burnley by taking their frustrations out on Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday. While Spurs had a rough weekend at Turf Moor, there’s no denying that Chelsea’s weekend was worse. A loss in the Carabao Cup final that was highlighted by one of the strangest exchanges between a manager and player is just the start of what’s going on in West London. Joining me from We Ain’t Got No History is David Pasztor, who talks about that strange situation, whether or not Europa League is Chelsea’s best bet for Champions League and what a possible two transfer window ban means for the Blues.

CFC: The Blues are currently three points out of fourth in the table, sitting in sixth just behind Arsenal. With eleven matches to go, can they still claw back into a UCL spot or is Europa League their best bet?

WAGNH: It might actually be easier to win the Europa League than to finish fourth in the Premier League these days, especially when you’re as inconsistent as Chelsea. We “should” be better than Arsenal but Manchester United’s revival has complicated matters to a significant degree.

If we got MTV to get them a spot, who wins in Celebrity Deathmatch: Kepa or Sarri? Also, what’s happened since that rather bizarre situation?

Old man with a lifelong smoking habit versus spry 24-year-old armed with player power? Kepa might have weak wrists and second-hand smoke is a major killer, but that’s still a no-contest.

The situation itself is still developing, with everyone at Chelsea making a strong effort to play it down, sweep it under the rug, and deal with it internally. Reports say that Kepa will not be “punished” for his apparent insubordination (which supports the “big misunderstanding” explanations from both sides), but perhaps a fine of a couple weeks’ wages, plus a conveniently timed flare-up of his hamstring injury to miss a game or two will be in order just to re-establish the power structure. Then again, Willian was not punished for his social media antics after last season’s FA Cup – he covered up Conte’s picture in his Instagram story – so maybe we’ve just turned the keys to the asylum over to the inmates at this point.

(Author’s note: Kepa was fined prior to this interview going live.)

There’s no way in hell Kepa starts on Wednesday, right?

“It was a big misunderstanding and everything is fine. This is fine. Nothing to see here. I was just angry because Evan cheated on Kaci on Temptation Island”

As of this moment, Sarri is still the manager. How long does that continue and, if Sarri does get the sack, who in the world takes over temporarily and permanently?

Despite the non-embarrassing performance against Manchester City (the bar’s pretty low these days), Sarri supposedly remains on thin ice and a loss at any given point could be his last one – including, and perhaps especially so, this game against Spurs.

There’s a tiny chance that Chelsea have bought fully into “Sarrismo” and we’re going to back the manager, but that would not be a smart bet. The leading interim candidate appears to be Steve Holland, former Chelsea assistant (to AVB, Di Matteo, Benitez, Mourinho, and Conte, phew!) and current England assistant coach, or possibly Gianfranco Zola, who has a terrible managerial record but is one of the current assistant coaches. A more permanent appointee could be Laurent Blanc, or perhaps Frank Lampard (if he’s deemed ready), or Zinedine Zidane (who appears to not be foolish enough to take the job but is the bookies’ favorite).

There were rumblings months ago that Roman may be looking to sell Chelsea after that whole passport/work visa problem. Has that died down or is he quietly shopping?

Abramovich hasn’t been seen at a Chelsea match for about a year now, if not longer (and that’s very unusual from him), so the rumblings certainly haven’t gone away. But, they’ve largely faded into the background for now. Spending big on Jorginho, Arrizabalaga, and Pulisic has put some of it to bed, though Chelsea’s new stadium project is still on hold due to an “unfavorable investment climate” (the official line) and Abramovich is effectively banned from the UK (he can visit but he doesn’t seem to be bothering with that), so it would not be all that surprising if he decided that he’s done with Chelsea after 16 years.

Shag/Marry/Shove off a cliff: Sarri, Conte, Mourinho.

My personal biases mean that the only answer to this is to, in order, Mourinho, Conte, Sarri.

Is all hope lost for Eden Hazard staying past the summer?

No, all hope is not lost … he said hopefully. Chelsea’s incoming transfer ban (most likely: winter and summer 2020 transfer windows) mean that this summer is doubly important and we can expect double efforts to keep our best (many of whom already got new contracts this season, including N’Golo Kante) and brightest (like young Callum Hudson-Odoi).

Hazard has said that he already made his decision but won’t reveal it until later, which can either mean that he’s waiting for Real to actually make a move (which they have not done and may not ever do) or that he’s just going to sign a new contract (which some with a certain measure of insight are expecting, most notably former teammate Cesc Fabregas).

Either way, it’s a massive crossroads for both Hazard, who’s 28 and will be basically signing the last big contract of his career, and Chelsea as well – we don’t have either of our two current strikers under contract for next season, nor do we have any of our four current wingers signed beyond next season.

How do you expect Chelsea to line up on Wednesday?

Just the 120 minutes of intense effort against City so what’s another 90 against Spurs then? Sarri can hardly afford to rotate, even if he probably should just to get fresh legs out there. I can see Christensen playing instead of one of the other center backs (like he did in the League Cup semifinal), but otherwise I’m fairly confident we’ll get a very familiar-looking lineup.

(4-3-3): Arrizabalaga | Alonso, David Luiz, Rudiger, Azpilicueta | Kovacic, Jorginho, Kante Hazard, Higuain, Willian

How about a prediction?

Chelsea try to play “Sarri-ball” again and lose. Sarri’s sacked, Kepa takes over, we win the Europa League.

A big thank you to David for taking time out to chat with us. At some point, an interview will go live over on We Ain’t Got No History as I chat about injury woes, the title race, and whether or not Pochettino would kill Mike Dean.