Premier League Tactical Preview: Liverpool v Man City could be a classic

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp
Klopp's team will be involved in a frantic game on Sunday.

Alex Keble picks out four key tactical battles from the weekend's action, predicting Everton v Man Utd and Liverpool v Man City will be excellent games...

"This game is likely to swing from end-to-end like the very best Klopp-versus-Guardiola battles down the years."

Tactical flaws suggest both attacks can run riot

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

This could be the game of the weekend. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is under increasing pressure after the midweek defeat in Turkey, but United generally excel against good clubs whose high line and expansive possession leaves space for the likes of Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes to dominate on the counter-attack.

As Everton look to control the game through Allan, with both full-backs flying forward simultaneously to provide the width, there will be ample opportunity for Solskjaer to play in his favourite style. Newcastle countered with great success in their 2-1 win over Everton, as did Southampton last weekend; Look out for Anthony Martial and Rashford getting behind Ben Godfrey.

But United are still vulnerable in key areas. Those Everton full-backs can expect to find lots of space for crosses, such is the lack of defensive support Solskjaer's full-backs are given, which hands Dominic Calvert-Lewin a chance to return to form. What's more, James Rodriguez will lurk in the right-centre zone where United have consistently looked clumsy. There will be goals at both ends.

Podence crucial in dull game

Leicester v Wolves
Sunday, 14:00
Live on Sky Sports Main Event

There are plenty of reasons to assume this will be a poor game, perhaps even a 0-0. Leicester City have moved to a 3-4-2-1 formation recently to cope with a series of injuries to key players, and the continued absence of Wilfried Ndidi and Caglar Soyuncu has made them hold a more cautious line. That should mesh uncomfortably with Wolves' 3-4-2-1, a mirror-image formation that should cancel Leicester out.

Two sets of back threes rarely brings goals, but that is especially likely considering Wolves hold a deep defensive line, limiting the impact that James Maddison or Jamie Vardy can have. However, it is possible that Wolves can steal the tie if they focus down their left flank, where Daniel Podence has shown good form this season, scoring against Crystal Palace last weekend.

Injuries to Ricardo Pereira and Timothy Castagne has forced Rodgers to play James Justin as the right centre-back and Marc Albrighton at right wing-back, a partnership without the positional discipline to cope with Podence if he is at his best - and if he is supported well by Rayan Ait-Nouri, Wolves' other goalscorer against Palace.

Rodgers Clapping 1280.jpg

End-to-end chaos in crucial fixture

Man City v Liverpool
Sunday, 16:30
Live on Sky Sports Main Event

Ignore the fact that Manchester City have struggled to create chances this season: Jurgen Klopp's side will pour forward in attack and hand City the chance to counter, making their previous struggles to break down deep defences irrelevant.

Ignore the fact Liverpool have coped well without Virgil van Dijk so far: they are yet to be tested by an attack as strong as Pep Guardiola's.

Following their dull, low-tempo 1-1 draw with West Ham, City were notably quicker in trying to launch counter-attacks when possible against Marseille. What's more, Guardiola has taken to a far more direct and vertical approach to facing Liverpool in recent times. For the 4-0 win back in July, Kevin de Bruyne was fed through the centre as City launched rapid breakaways that ran in direct contradiction to Guardiola's usual tactics.

But for every City counter, there is the chance of a Liverpool counter-counter. This game is likely to swing from end-to-end like the very best Klopp-versus-Guardiola battles down the years, because in Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane the visitors boast forwards capable of exploiting the vulnerability around Ruben Dias and Joao Cancelo.

Villa's deep defence can produce shock

Arsenal v Aston Villa
Sunday, 19:15
Live on Sky Sports Box Office

Aston Villa's back-to-back league defeats need not alarm supporters. Dean Smith's desire to play a spread-out possession game against all but the 'Big Six' means Leeds and Southampton - as mid-tier clubs with outstanding managers - are arguably the worst two opponents Villa can face. For a game like Arsenal, Smith will have the humility to set a very deep defensive line, absorb pressure, and hit on the counter-attack.

That's what he did for the 1-0 win at Villa Park last season, and since then Arsenal's attacking record has only got worse. Mikel Arteta is struggling to get creativity into the side, his 3-4-3 often looking too flat as the forwards become disconnected from the midfielders. A defensive shell like Villa's won't leave any spaces for shots, and given that Arsenal have only scored nine goals in seven league games this season the visitors stand a good chance of a clean sheet.

Villa will look to break down their left via Jack Grealish, the standout performer in last season's win. Grealish will look to combine with Ross Barkley and set Ollie Watkins in behind, and this could be successful given how high Hector Bellerin will go in an attempt to break Villa down. Rob Holding will have an awful lot to do.

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