Alex Keble assesses the tactical battles in the midweek Premier League games, suggesting that Chelsea will take the advantage in the race for Champions League football...
"Along with Kai Havertz and Christian Pulisic also coming in, the fresher side with home advantage – and better wing-backs – can take the three points."
Brighton v Manchester City
Live on BT Sport 1
Only four teams in the Premier League have a better defensive record than Brighton (42 goals conceded), which is testament to the strength of their shape under Graham Potter. They would be in the top half of the table if their forwards could only finish, but fortunately for Brighton they won't really need to be creating chances for the visit of Man City.
They would happily take a 0-0, as they did in a recent game against Chelsea in which Thomas Tuchel's side dominated the ball put could not get past this stubborn and well-drilled unit. In a 3-5-2, they will be capable of blocking the width of the pitch while ensuring there is no room in the half-spaces for Phil Foden and Kevin de Bruyne, swarming the middle as they did against Chelsea's inside forwards.
However, as the match wears on Man City will have the fresh legs and the depth of tactical strategies to shake things up with substitutions and find the breakthrough. A series of injuries leaves Brighton without their first-choice wing-backs, and Riyad Mahrez up against the inexperienced Jakub Moder is a particularly obvious mismatch.
Chelsea v Leicester City
Live on Sky Sports Premier League
This is essentially a Champions League playoff match, and while that will make it a nervy contest it shouldn't be as cagey or stuttering as the FA Cup final. Thousands of Chelsea supporters will give the hosts an advantage, as will the fact Thomas Tuchel surely won't make the same mistake of deploying Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcus Alonso as his wing-backs.
With Leicester City in a mirroring 3-4-1-2 formation this ensured both teams were blocked across the pitch as Chelsea, dominating the ball with 64% possession, had nothing on the flanks to drive them through the lines and counter-balance the swarm of bodies through the middle. Tuchel, then, ought to play Reece James on the right and Ben Chilwell on the left this time, adding attacking dynamism on the wings.
That is especially worrying for Brendan Rodgers because he does not have a similar luxury of rotating players. Along with Kai Havertz and Christian Pulisic also coming in, the fresher side with home advantage - and better wing-backs - can take the three points.
Tottenham v Aston Villa
Live on Sky Sports Main Event
Ryan Mason's attempt to channel the energy of the Mauricio Pochettino era has made Tottenham Hotspur very attacking and a little disordered; with Dele Alli roaming around Harry Kane and Gareth Bale unlikely to track back, Spurs' 4-2-4 is wide open to teams that can counter-attack at speed. Although Aston Villa may well be as open as Wolves were at the weekend, given their season is winding down, Bale's inability to defend gives Jack Grealish an advantage.
Bale was at fault repeatedly in the 3-1 defeat to Leeds United, in which Jack Harrison and Ezgjan Alioski worked together to get behind Serge Aurier, and that major problem will rear its head as Grealish enjoys his first start since returning from injury. He will combine with the overlapping Matt Targett to hurt Tottenham whenever Bale jogs listlessly back.
That does not mean Villa will win. Their passive defending in a 3-2 defeat to Crystal Palace suggests Tottenham's front four will get all the space they need, particularly on the left where Heung-Min Son goes up against Ahmed Elmohamedy. The Egyptian is standing in for Matty Cash, and he looked well off the pace up against Wilfried Zaha and Eberichi Eze.
Burnley v Liverpool
Live on Sky Sports Main Event
Liverpool were fortunate to get away with another sloppy performance against West Brom at the weekend, and that might inspire Jurgen Klopp to switch things back to a 4-2-4 formation; against the most defensive teams in the country Liverpool need all of their forwards on the pitch. That is especially true for a trip to Burnley, who began Liverpool's sequence of home defeats with a 1-0 win at Anfield in January.
In that game, Liverpool held 72% possession but most of it was sideways, allowing Burnley to shuffle across and keep Klopp's side at arms' length. The key player for the visitors will be Thiago, who topped the charts against West Brom for touches, passes, tackles, and chances created. His ability to break the lines with his passing and help pin Burnley back will be essential if Liverpool are to grind out a narrow win.
But it would be naïve to assume Liverpool will keep a clean sheet. They are often a bit vulnerable down their right flank, where Mohamed Salah regularly fails to get back and where Trent Alexander-Arnold can go missing as he seeks to give Liverpool an attacking advantage. In the spaces behind TAA, Burnley's best player Dwight McNeil can cause serious problems on the counter-attack.