Sideshow Bob was arguably the standout player last season during this fixture
Ahead of Sunday's upcoming Premier League clash with Chelsea FC, Graham MacAree -- the manager of the excellent Chelsea fansite We Ain't Got No History and Lead Editor of SB Nation Soccer -- has kindly taken time to answer questions for this Q&A. Most of the questions were asked by you -- our readers -- and a few were supplemented in by me. The following contains content on Fernando Torres and Andres Villas-Boas and handshakes, oh my!
TBB: Alright, let's get the Fernando Torres questions out of the way as he seemed to be a hot topic amongst our readers. The Spaniard has once again been given a run of games with Didier Drogba at the African Cup of Nations -- how has he fared during this opportunity? Do you feel the club has given up on Torres and if not, are they close? Same question as well for those who support Chelsea. Is he ever going to work in this team and if so, at who's expense? Do you think there's a certain price -- obviously it would have to be below the £50m he was acquired for in a transfer fee -- that Chelsea would accept for the striker?
WAGNH: Oh, Nando. With Drogba at ACoN, Torres has indeed had a run of games in the side, and he's been... up and down, at best. I don't really care how many goals he scores so long as he's creating opportunities for the rest of the team, and he's been doing that in most of the games this month. That said, he was absolutely awful against Swansea, so he's not on my happy list right now. Chelsea probably haven't given up on Torres yet, although the rumours that they bid €40M for Gonzalo Higuain on Tuesday indicated that they're close to the end of the rope. As for the fans, some have and some haven't, which is pretty much exactly what you'd expect. My personal feeling is (and has been since this) is that he's toast, and with him making £10M or so a year in wages, he should be sent packing at the earliest opportunity. If someone offers £20M for him, I'd snap their hand off.
TBB: Another player who seemed to be a hot topic with our readers -- John Terry. Your thoughts on his upcoming trial being after Euro 2012? Do you think it would be acceptable to have him represent the club as captain if he is proven to have used a racial slur? Should Rio Ferdinand (brother of Anton -- the player accusing Terry of racial abuse) and the other United players shake hands with Terry and the other Chelsea players?
WAGNH: Terry's trial date means that if he's suspended we probably won't have to see much of Gary Cahill, which is a big plus. The timing works out pretty well in terms of there being a transfer window and everything, so I suppose I'm happy it's been pushed back. As for whether I'd be happy to have someone convicted of racially abusing someone captaining the team, that's pretty easy. No. Why did that question even need to be asked? And then the handshake thing... Rio Ferdinand can do whatever takes his fancy. Making a big deal out of a handshake is lunacy.
TBB: While Lucas Piazon may be a little inexperienced, is there any chance of him becoming an impact player off the bench in the coming weeks -- at least until the AFCoN is over?
WAGNH: Lucas Piazon's only just jumped up to the reserve level, and while he's a very good prospect there's basically no way he's ready to play regularly in the Premier League. He made the Swansea squad because of injuries rather than anything in particular he's done to merit a first-team place. It'll be another year or two before he breaks through, one suspects.
WAGNH: In the previous game that Ashley Cole's missed, Jose Bosingwa got the start at left back. However, Ryan Bertrand, who's ostensibly Cole's backup, wasn't available for that game, so we may see him instead. I'm not really concerned about Cole being gone against Valencia, because Cole's been absolutely terrible this year. It's not like whoever replaces him can be much worse.
WAGNH: Oriol Romeu's a pretty interesting player. He's a very good tackler and short passer but is pretty deficient in the other aspects of the game, which makes him useful as a midfield shield but not much else. He's a quicker, but less inventive passer than Mikel, and he's better at commanding the area between the centre backs. The buyback option on him is slightly controversial. Chelsea have claimed that it's actually a right of first refusal, which would make the whole question rather pointless, but I don't know for certain one way or another. In general, yes, I'd quite like to keep him.
WAGNH: I like Andre Villas-Boas but he's obviously going through a hard time right now. I'm willing to give him a few years, because I like his overall plan, but if he doesn't get us through to the top four there'll be trouble - I'd guess AVB's gone if we don't make it to the Champions League next year. Sacking Ancelotti was probably the right choice as well. He's a manager who can get the most out of aging talent, but definitely not the guy for a youth movement, which is what Chelsea need more than anything else.
WAGNH: For Chelsea, I favour a 4-2-3-1 with Mata in the hole. Sturridge is fine where he is but tends not to play well without Drogba on the pitch, and I'd be tempted to make him a centre forward should Torres continue to disappoint. Given a fully fit team, here's what I would probably go with:
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Petr Cech; Ashley Cole, John Terry, David Luiz, Branislav Ivanovic; Michael Essien, Ramires; Salomon Kalou, Juan Mata, Daniel Sturridge, Didier Drogba.
Of course, two of those players are at ACoN, one's suspended and one's injured so here's my predicted starting XI against United on Sunday.
Chelsea (4-3-3): Petr Cech; Ryan Bertrand, John Terry, David Luiz, Branislav Ivanovic; Oriol Romeu, Michael Essien, Raul Meireles; Juan Mata, Fernando Torres, Daniel Sturridge.
And no, the high line died after the 5-3 loss to Arsenal.
WAGNH: Broadly speaking, I'm happy with the deals, although I do worry that the first-team squad didn't get the reinforcements they needed. Gary Cahill's ok as a 4th-choice centre back, and I'm a big fan of Kevin de Bruyne, who's a really good player (although he looks like a fish). You'll see him in a couple of years, but he's a winger who's good enough on the ball to play in the centre of midfield if asked, can beat players, cross properly and score goals. As for David Luiz... the last time y'all came to Stamford Bridge in the league, he was the best player on the pitch by quite a long way. He's doing just fine.
WAGNH: I'm tempted to go for a repeat of last year and say 2-1 Chelsea. We've already beaten a better team than United in City at the Bridge, so there's no reason we can't win this time around.