Alex Keble assesses the tactical battles in the weekend Premier League games, suggesting that Newcastle will create an entertaining game against Arsenal...
"Given that Liverpool are struggling to stay in control of games, it is easy to imagine Fernandes and Pogba getting their heads up and releasing Marcus Rashford in behind Liverpool’s makeshift defence."
Crystal Palace v Manchester City
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Roy Hodgson's deep-lying 4-4-2 is easy to predict; Palace will happily sit extremely deep and allow Manchester City to hog possession, and frankly the tactical system is unlikely to be any more successful than it was in the 4-0 defeat in the reverse fixture. The sheer quality gap between the two sets of players could be enough to see Palace cave, but even if it isn't there is a tactical flaw in Hodgson's shape that should allow Phil Foden to flourish.
The issue with using two banks of four is that Palace are light in the centre. A two-man midfield is quite easily pulled around by intelligent wingers, with Palace consistently caught out by slipped passes around the corners of the penalty area. They simply don't have the midfield numbers to cover the gaps, and as the full-back moves out wide to close the ball down a big hole opens for the opponent to dominate in the channels.
Foden can wreak havoc, then, while at the other end Kyle Walker will probably start at right-back to limit the threat of Wilfried Zaha and Eberechi Eze. Hodgson's side are only dangerous down the left, so if Pep Guardiola deploys Walker like a third centre-back then his pace should be enough to prevent danger.
Newcastle v Arsenal
Live on Sky Sports Premier League
Steve Bruce has moved to a gung-ho 3-5-2 formation that has made Newcastle effective on the counter-attack but porous in defence. In-form Allan Saint-Maximin will likely flourish through the middle on the break, exploiting a weak Arsenal midfield (Mohamed Elneny is easily overpowered while Granit Xhaka deputises at left-back) as Jonjo Shelvey picks out passes to him - or to Callum Wilson as he makes runs on the shoulder of the Arsenal high line.
However, stretching the pitch like that will not work in Newcastle's favour. Liverpool had 22 shots last weekend because of the sheer porousness through Bruce's side, and Arsenal have the tools to take advantage of an end-to-end game: as in the 4-2 win over Leeds United, Mikel Arteta knows how to fight fire with fire by allowing his attacking players to dribble clean through stretched opposition lines.
Bukayo Saka is particularly important. Newcastle's biggest defensive issue is miscommunication between left centre-back Paul Dummett and left wing-back Matt Ritchie, which has led directly to four of the last five goals the Magpies have succeeded. Saka, starting on the right, has the intelligence to ghost into spaces between them.
Man Utd v Liverpool
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Liverpool will move back to their 4-3-3 formation for the trip to Old Trafford, and that will make their central midfield more stable than it was in the 1-1 draw with Newcastle United, when Jurgen Klopp's 4-2-4 allowed Saint-Maximin to easily dribble through the middle. However, without Fabinho screening against the counter-attack, Liverpool remain poor in midfield, failing to press well enough to prevent incisive counters.
Manchester United are particularly adept at breaking quickly. They will happily sit in a safe midblock for this game and wait for moments to pounce, which should happen given Paul Pogba's form as a left winger. He drifts infield to join Bruno Fernandes, potentially allowing United to outnumber Liverpool in this crucial zone of the pitch.
Given that Liverpool are struggling to stay in control of games, it is easy to imagine Fernandes and Pogba getting their heads up and releasing Marcus Rashford in behind Liverpool's makeshift defence.
Everton v Aston Villa
Live on BT Sport 1
Aston Villa continue to labour through these final months of the season, playing without any real tactical cohesion and with the sort of vague plans that make them vulnerable to simple passages of play from high-quality players. Matheus Pereira, for example, was dominant in the 2-2 draw with West Brom because Villa give teams so much room between the lines.
Everton are back in the hunt for a Champions League spot after a win at Arsenal, which should mean they can start playing with confidence again. That points to a big 90 minutes for Richarlison and James Rodriguez, who played as a number ten at the Emirates and looked his sharpest in some time. These two, combining down the right wing, should be able to outmanoeuvre Anwar El Ghazi and cause problems around the error-prone Tyrone Mings.
Villa will continue to struggle until Jack Grealish returns to action, and that means Allan's controlling influence can keep the visitors at arms' length. Carlo Ancelotti should enjoy a pretty comfortable win on Saturday evening.