RR: When we spoke towards the end of last season you said you'd take Conte coming in and playing pretty boring football if it meant achieving results. It's been far from dull though and you're in great form at the moment, with many considering you favourites for the title. Chelsea fans must be in great spirits but what is it that Conte has brought to Stamford Bridge that has you looking so dominant?
GM: There are many factors that go into turning a team from tenth place to (so far) first, so it's difficult to pin down Chelsea's improvement to anything in particular. Suffice it to say that every player is better at every facet of the game under Antonio Conte. Eden Hazard and Nemanja Matic are back from the wilderness, Victor Moses has inexplicably turned into an ace wing-back, and two summer signings which were considered questionable back in August -- David Luiz and your old pal Marcos Alonso -- have turned into established first-teamers. And that's without mentioning that Chelsea have stolen Leicester City's secret weapon and turned it against them.
Some of that is tactical, some of that is a good old kick up the arse and some of that is because winning breeds winning. I suppose the short version is that last year everything that could go wrong went wrong and that this year everything that could go right has gone right.
RR: Do you think you'll reclaim the Premier League title this season? No European commitments certainly give you an edge over the likes of Manchester City and Arsenal.
GM: I'm not going to count my chickens before they've hatched, especially after the disappointing season Chelsea inflicted on their fans last year. But we certainly have a chance. No European commitments help, like you've said, and those back-to-back wins over Tottenham and Manchester City have done wonders for the Blues' title chances.
We'll be in the hunt, I think. That's all you can ask for, at this time of year anyway.
RR: Our former loanee Marcos Alonso joined late in the transfer window, of course. Alonso is still quite popular figure up here, so how are you lot taking to him?
GM: It's a little mixed. He's obviously a decent player and a good fit for the system, but Chelsea have cycled through so many left backs over the years that some fans have their pet favourite transfer targets and are insisting that Alonso can be improved upon with [insert name here]. Which, to be fair, he probably can, but he's done a good enough job starting those nine games on the bounce, and I think he's been under-appreciated compared to Victor Moses' more spectacular impact on the opposite flank. If he wasn't staying deeper than Moses to let Eden Hazard have a free role, perhaps he'd be a little more popular.
RR: Chelsea have been very impressive going forward but you're now looking pretty tight at the back as well, having only conceded 11 times this season and only 2 in your last 6 games. What do you put that down to?
GM: Three things come to mind immediately. The first is organisation -- the back three means that there aren't so many big spaces to cover, and when holes open up this Chelsea side plugs them quickly and efficiently. Cesar Azpilicueta isn't a name that gets a lot of love in the wider footballing world, but watching his movement has been a treat. What kind of right back adapts so quickly to both left back and right-centre back? He's quick, smart and thoroughly serene.
Second and possibly more importantly, the midfield works. Last season Matic fell apart after 18 months of relying on him as a defensive shield, so Chelsea were exposed over and over again. This year, N'Golo Kante is sharing that defensive load which in turn has coaxed Matic back to life. That's left us with two of the best defensive midfielders in the league, which is a good recipe for stopping chances.
Third is David Luiz. He makes big, high-profile mistakes, sure. But what everyone forgets is how good he is between those mistakes. On his day, I suspect he'd more than hold his own against any centre forward in England. Plus, in a back three, when he does make an error he has immediate cover.
RR: Diego Costa looks unstoppable at the minute, Eden Hazard has rediscovered his old self and Victor Moses has transformed into a pretty good wing back. Are they the main threats? Anyone else you'd single out?
GM: Pedro probably deserves a mention. He's had some devastating games during this winning run, and Everton fans will tell you he was probably our best player during that 5-0 win a few weeks back. It's Costa who I'd pick out as our attacking player of the season so far though. He's morphed from angry poacher of goals into an all-out menace. He's scoring from set pieces, from outside the box, after mugging defenders -- you name it. He's our scariest player, I think.
RR: In our side, who do you think will cause you the most problems?
GM: Jermaine Defoe's always a good bet to do something annoying against us, and his partnership with Victor Anichebe is a little alarming. If Sunderland can make the ball stick up the pitch, those two can cause us problems. Elsewhere, would anyone be really shocked if Papy Djilobodji scored against Chelsea? It'd certainly be high poetry. I wouldn't mind too much as long as there were no points dropped as a result.
How do you think Conte will approach the game and give us a predicted starting XI?
GM: Conte's made some noise about rotating his players for the Christmas stretch, but I don't know how seriously to take that yet. Instead, I'll just go with the predictable lineup:
Chelsea (3-4-3): Courtois; Cahill, Luiz, Azpilicueta; Alonso, Kante, Matic, Moses; Hazard, Costa, Pedro.
Dare I even ask for a score prediction?
Sunderland have been improved of late and I wouldn't be shocked if you caused us some problems. That said, betting against Chelsea isn't the wisest move recently. A 2-0 win for the Blues?