The upcoming game against United sees Chelsea take them on for the 3rd time this season. With 2/2 defeats. Are you confident?
Gaurav: Yes, I’m confident that we can secure the 3 points or at least a draw, we go into this game with better form than United. United’s Premier League record coming into this game is 1W 2D 3L while our record is 1W 3D 1L. However, it must be noted that the winter break would have mitigated any run of form from both teams. Our home form is wavering, but I still see the lads being fired up for the first game after the winter break and we should look to dominate the game and get the 3 points.
What do you feel has been the main issue when coming up against United this season?
Gaurav: We’ve let United get past our defensive lines too easily and let them score goals against us rather comfortably. That’s the main issue. We need to restrict United by defending in numbers, maintaining shape and we need to make it harder for them to score.
With Rashford out of contention. Who do you feel will be their main threat/ anyone you’re worried about?
Gaurav: Rashford has been the major goal threat for United against us. Apart from him, I don’t think the United attack has much to offer. New January recruit Ighalo will probably start. But I guess we need to contain Mason Greenwood if he starts. He’s only 18 but he’s got a sharp eye for goal and has scored 4 in the league for United already. Daniel James is another threat from out wide that we need to contain.
A midfield battle between their name signing Fernandes who is expected to start. Who would you play in midfield and why?
Gaurav:Fernandes has impressed after his debut against Wolves and will start for United. I’d pick Kante, Jorginho, and Kovacic, our three strongest midfielders to start against United. Kante’s work rate and tackling ability will be key to winning the midfield battle and Jorginho’s passing range and Kovacic’s dribbling ability will help unlock United’s defence and help in keeping possession in the middle of the park.
With Tammy potentially missing this one out. If he is indeed unfit to play. Who would you start up front?
Gaurav: I hope Tammy starts. He’s been so vital for us this season and hopefully, he shakes off his injury. But that being said, if Tammy doesn’t play, I’d give Giroud a start ahead of Batshuayi. Giroud could help in holding up the ball against Maguire and Lindelof and would be able to bring other attackers into play. Giroud is also an aerial threat so crosses into the box, especially from Reece James, would see Giroud get on the end of at least a few. Giroud would be the best option instead of Tammy as Batshuayi is far too wasteful. Another option would be to field a false nine with either Mount or Willian upfront, which Lampard could opt for. Frank hasn’t particularly shown faith in either Giroud or Batshuayi this season, so a false nine could be on the cards.
Kepa was left out in the last match before the winter break, would you reinstate him into the side?
Gaurav: It all depends on training. Kepa was left out because he had been performing poorly. Frank wanted to send a message and quite rightly dropped him. There’s a lot of room for improvement when it comes to Kepa, from handling to catching, 1 v 1’s and most importantly positioning, the latter being the key area the Spaniard has struggled with, often having poor positioning in-game. If he’s been performing better in training I’d stick him between the sticks, but if he’s still underperforming, I’d go with Caballero.
Reporter: An opportunity to open a gap up to a rival to the Top 4 race. Do you think Man City receiving the ban could impact the squad mentally? With a 5th position opening up the door for UCL
Gaurav: The Man City ban, what a shocker! It opens 5th spot as a Champions League berth but I don’t think it changes our aim to finish in the top four. Yes, there’s room for error now that 5th spot guarantees Champions League football as well, but I don’t think it changes Frank and Chelsea’s goal to stay in the top four. Mentally, it shouldn’t affect the players too much with the goal and target of finishing in the top four staying the same. Since Spurs have closed the gap to 1 point it’s paramount that we win this game, so Frank and the lads need to grind out a victory come what may.
Reporter: Finally, what would be your team and formation going into the match?
Gaurav: I’d switch the formation to a 4-2-3-1 to match United. I’d switch Kante and Jorginho into the holding roles in midfield and Kovacic ahead of them and I’d stick Mount out wide.
My lineup would be Caballero, Rudiger, Christensen, Azpilicueta, Reece James, Kante, Jorginho, Kovacic, Mount, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Giroud.