Ahead of Saturday’s big derby against Tottenham Hotspur, I exchanged a few questions and answers with ‘GN Punk’ of Cartilage Free Captain, the best blog soon to be covering Thursday Night Football.
WAGNH: In the seven months since the last Battle of the Bridge, much has changed at Chelsea, but not much seems to have changed at Spurs. Would that be a correct summary of the season so far?
CFC: For the most part, I think that's a fair assessment. Spurs made moves in the transfer window that were to add in depth in necessary positions while selling off players that were no longer needed. Can Chelsea say that they've sold two players that broke club records at West Brom and Hull City and those players included Ryan Mason?
(Rebuttal: Well, we did sell Papy Djiloboji for £8m, which surely wins us some sort of prize, right?)
WAGNH: Why does Pochettino love draws so much?
CFC: I've come to the conclusion that he was awful at artwork when he was a kid and couldn't draw properly. He had to make up for it somehow.
All kidding aside, it's been interesting the last month and a half. Spurs played their most complete match of the season against Manchester City, then went into this shell. Granted, there have been a slew of injuries to deal with, but I'd rather not become the "Draw City" of the Premier League.
WAGNH: On the scale of Spursy to not-so-Spursy, just how disappointing was it to be eliminated in a Champions League group consisting of the 3rd place team in Russia, the 9th place team in Germany, and a French team that's not PSG? Was Pochettino's "gamble", as many headlines are calling it, really that much of a gamble on Tuesday?
CFC: It's disappointing, no doubt about it. The draw was not the nightmare draw we all expected, but we had no idea that Monaco were going to be as good as they are (seriously, they are no joke) and while we expected stiff competition from Bayer Leverkusen, we were all hopeful of the chances to make it to the knockout stages. As for the gamble, I don't think it was anything of the sort. He's had a bit of a thin squad due to injury and the schedule is rough right now. He played what he felt was a strong lineup, and it didn't pan out. Not much else needs to be said.
Funny story: Right before the match against Monaco, I got a delivery and in the box was a bottle of Knob Creek 100 Proof Bourbon. It got some good use after that match. If you can get a bottle of it, I'd highly recommend it.
WAGNH: Would you prefer the Europa League or nothing from this point?
CFC: I want nothing to do with Europa. This is a team that can compete for the top four and, if they manage to build off the West Ham comeback win, can still compete for the title once everyone is healthy. If that is the belief, then fire the Europa League into the Sun and focus on the Premier League.
Then again, we should just fire the Europa League into the Sun anyways.
(We second that motion.)
WAGNH: Do you guys have any healthy and non-suspended defenders remaining for Saturday's game? How's the rest of the squad's fitness, seeing as how quite a few are coming off of recent injuries? Any chance of a mirror 3-4-3 formation surprise?
CFC: Confirmed out for Saturday are Toby Alderweireld and Ben Davies. There's no word just yet on Erik Lamela, though I'd be surprised if he were involved as he's had a nagging hip flexor injury. Kyle Walker should be available, but it's a coin flip. Kieran Trippier played 90 minutes against Monaco as did Danny Rose.
I think there's a real possibility of a mirror 3-4-3. Spurs rolled it out against Arsenal and it worked fairly well. Jan Vertonghen got a rest midweek after playing like 98 matches in a row so he'll be ready. Eric Dier is apparently a cyborg that never runs out of energy and Kevin Wimmer has been chained up in the basement of White Hart Lane until the Monaco match. Behind them is Cameron Carter-Vickers, and while the future is bright for him, he isn't ready for a match of this magnitude.
WAGNH: What do you think is more likely, Diego Costa avoiding a yellow card or Spurs winning at Stamford Bridge?
CFC: The former is absolutely more likely. It's been a long time since Spurs have won at Stamford Bridge, and while Pochettino can probably eek out a draw, the former of the two is definitely more likely.
WAGNH: Any (other) bold predictions? Scoreline?
CFC: I'll go with a scoreline of 2-2.
Standard predictions: Kane nabs a brace but Spurs are unable to contain Costa and Hazard who each pick up a goal.
Bold predictions: There are 18 yellow cards in the match followed by Mauricio Pochettino giving the Stone Cold Stunner to Antonio Conte after the match.
We were delighted to welcome Antonio Conte, @azzurri manager, to our Training Centre on Mon - http://t.co/Bs9tNjp14M pic.twitter.com/6luTq6z6m6— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) February 17, 2015
Thanks againt to ‘GN Punk’; be sure to check out the reverse version of this over at Cartilage Free.