Premier League Tactical Preview: Leicester to beat Man Utd on Boxing Day

Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy
Vardy's Leicester can boost their title hopes on Boxing Day

For Premier League Gameweek 15 Alex Keble picks out four key tactical battles and says that Jamie Vardy can inspire Leicester to a big win against Manchester United...

"Jamie Vardy is good at finding the weakest centre-back and targeting them with his runs in behind, and certainly Vardy versus Victor Lindelof is a mismatch."

Ndidi & Tielmans to create low-scoring win

Leicester v Man Utd
Saturday, 12:30
Live on BT Sport 1

Manchester United's big win on Sunday was thanks to Leeds emptying central midfield, offering huge amounts of space to Bruno Fernandes and Scott McTominay to dominate the game. By contrast, Leicester City will keep things tight: not only does Brendan Rodgers generally play conservatively against the big teams, but Wilfried Ndidi and Youri Tielemans were excellent at shutting down Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son at the weekend.

That suggests a low-tempo game in which the United forwards are kept relatively quiet. They only really excel when there is space to counter-attack, and therefore Rodgers will sit his defence deeper to negate Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial. At the other end, there is a possibility that Leicester's sudden bursts - quick, vertical passes through James Maddison - are just the thing needed to lift sluggish Boxing Day matches.

Jamie Vardy is good at finding the weakest centre-back and targeting them with his runs in behind, and certainly Vardy versus Victor Lindelof is a mismatch. A low-scoring draw is probably the most likely outcome, but with Vardy so often excelling in big games, it's worth backing him to make the difference.

Traore, Grealish and Barkley to sweep through Palace

Aston Villa v Crystal Palace
Saturday, 15:00
Live on BBC One

Crystal Palace's 7-0 defeat in midweek highlighted the serious defensive issues Roy Hodgson's side face against teams with enough creativity to poke holes in what is a relatively decompressed 4-4-2. The two central midfielders are often pulled about by the fact Eberichi Eze stays high up the pitch, while Palace's back four badly lacks pace or quality.

Gary Cahill joins a long injury list to leave Cheikhou Kouyate and James Tomkins at the back, which is a frightening prospect when facing Jack Grealish, in-form Bertrand Traore, and the returning Ross Barkley. Before his injury, Barkley's driving presence centrally drew attention away from Grealish on the left, and that should lead to a lot of chances for the hosts.

Villa create more chances (13.2 per match) than anybody else in the Premier League, and despite a five-game goalless run Ollie Watkins continues to look sharp. Dean Smith's side will dominate possession, and with Douglas Luiz shutting down Palace's counters Aston Villa ought to be able to convert their dominance into goals.


Werner has crucial role for Chelsea

Arsenal v Chelsea
Saturday, 17:30
Live on Sky Sports Main Event

Arsenal have slightly improved since moving back to a 3-4-3 formation, but with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang joining the injury list they are highly unlikely to be able to create chances consistently this weekend. With a passive central midfield that lacks verticality, and with a front three rarely combining effectively or taking on their man, Mikel Arteta's team will struggle to score.

Chelsea's improved defence should be capable of stopping Eddie Nketiah and Nicolas Pepe; Thiago Silva has been superb recently and put in another outstanding display against West Ham. Assuming Frank Lampard's side are dominant and keep a clean sheet, focus turns to their ability to turn this situation into goals.

Timo Werner is the key man. Arsenal's back three has looked ropey as confidence dips, with gaps appearing around Rob Holding and David Luiz in particular. Werner's runs on the shoulder of the last defender will be focused between these two players, and should bear fruit.

Podence & Neto to capitalise on shaky defence

Wolves v Spurs
Sunday, 19:15
Live on Sky Sports Main Event

Tottenham have picked up just one point from their last three games, and increasingly it looks like they're too reliant on Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son - with Jose Mourinho struggling to implement a plan B. More alarmingly, his need to play on the counter-attack leaves him unable to change the pattern of a game. His attacking subs at half-time against Leicester allowed the Foxes to sit deeper, denying Spurs their counters.

Gareth Bale and Lucas Moura failed to create, while Kane and Son were limited by Youri Tielemans and Wilfried Ndidi together in midfield. It seems probable that Nuno Esperito Santo, who coaches a very disciplined and compressed shape, will similarly cut off Spurs' two most dangerous players via Ruben Neves and Leander Dendoncker. This will be a relatively dull game, with Wolves allowed to sit back and nullify Spurs.

Daniel Podence and Pedro Neto have been superb together and are revelling in the extra space that has come from Raul Jimenez's injury; it is a fluid front three for Nuno these days, and Podence and Neto will expect to take advantage of the defensive errors that have come back into Tottenham's game. If they are as flat-footed as they were against Leicester, then Podence and Neto can make the difference.

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