Premier League Tactical Preview: Palace to deny Spurs the win

Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho
Mourinho's Spurs are unlikely to keep up their winning run

Alex Keble assesses the tactical battles in the weekend's Premier League games, predicting that Man City beat Man Utd and Spurs drop points against Crystal Palace...

"Spurs probably won’t be able to play with enough tempo, purpose, or attacking structure to break through Hodgson’s defence."

Foden & De Bruyne can settle tight game

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

Manchester United's solid defence and conservative tactics for 'Big Six' matches perhaps point to another 0-0 draw here, particularly given that Bruno Fernandes is no longer in form; without him, their individualistic approach falls down. It certainly seems unlikely that United can counter-attack with much success given the intelligence of Pep Guardiola's back three during this remarkable winning run.

But the most likely outcome is a narrow Man City win that comes through overloading the half-spaces (the column of the pitch that runs between full-back and centre-back). United are slightly vulnerable here, as Crystal Palace (almost) showed in midweek and Chelsea (almost) threatened last weekend. When breaking quickly against United, spaces develop on the outside of their two-man midfield as Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood struggle to get back.

Phil Foden and Kevin de Bruyne, drifting into these zones either side, have the quality to take advantage of any small chinks in the United armour. The visitors will largely sit back, however, limiting this space, although Joao Cancelo's line-breaking runs from right-back into midfield threaten to disrupt the defensive pattern and open gaps for the Man City playmakers.

Dele & Lamela not enough to lift stalemate

Tottenham v Crystal Palace
Sunday, 19:15
Live on Sky Sports Main Event

Crystal Palace will inevitably deploy a low block at Tottenham. Roy Hodgson always plays the same way, using a deep 4-4-2 to frustrate the opposition for long periods before counter-attacking down the left flank through Eberichi Eze and Wilfried Zaha - who is in line for a return to the starting line-up on Sunday. This approach ought to work well against a Spurs side that lack rhythm, and that, no matter the line-up, are prone to falling flat for long periods of the game.

Jose Mourinho is likely to start Erik Lamela on the right, partly because of his impressive cameo against Fulham and partly because Gareth Bale isn't fit enough to start three games in a week. Lamela's subtle footwork is ideal for trying to unlock such a stubborn defence, and it will be intriguing to see how he can work together with Dele Alli to carve out space.

However, on balance Spurs probably won't be able to play with enough tempo, purpose, or attacking structure to break through Hodgson's defence. The last two meetings between the sides ended in a draw. This one should too.

Ancelotti's diamond to stifle Tuchel's 3-4-2-1

Chelsea v Everton
Monday, 18:00
Live on BT Sport 1

Carlo Ancelotti has sparked a revival of Everton's season by switching to a diamond 4-3-1-2 formation, and this system seems the right fit to limit Chelsea on Monday evening. With Gylfi Sigurdsson at the tip, and Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin lurking up front ready for the counter-attack, Everton have found a more solid midfield shape in which to sit deep and break.

Everton are much better when playing on the back foot, regularly struggling to win matches in which they hold the majority of possession, which makes a trip to Stamford Bridge surprisingly palatable. Thomas Tuchel's 3-4-2-1 is based on total domination of the ball, although its narrowness does mean Chelsea lack creativity, with too much pressure on Mason Mount to conjure from the number ten space.

As Everton crowd midfield with bodies, it is likely that Chelsea will again be reduced to relatively tame attacking football as Mount and another inside forward (Hakim Ziyech or Timo Werner) struggle to influence the game. Unfortunately, this looks set to be another pretty dull Premier League game.

Thomas Tuchel, Chelsea coach.jpg

Lingard to make the difference

West Ham v Leeds
Monday, 20:00
Live on Sky Sports Main Event

Leeds United don't tend to play well against opponents who sit in a conservative block, with their games only really descending into chaos if the other team is willing to press high. In fact, Marcelo Bielsa's side have looked a little tired of late, with Raphinha (three goals and three assists in eight games) carrying the team with his direct running. He is unlikely to get much joy against Vladimir Coufal, one of the players of the season so far.

In a tight game with few clear-cut chances, West Ham can come out on top courtesy of Jesse Lingard. He has been a revelation for David Moyes and, in a midfield lacking Kalvin Phillips, Lingard can drive West Ham forward on the break. The powerful duo of Declan Rice and Tomas Soucek means Leeds will be forced wide in possession, with their central midfielders drifting out to the flanks to overload the opposition.

Consequently there could be plenty of space for Lingard centrally, particularly in the transition when West Ham look to catch Leeds after they have poured bodies forward. With Michail Antonio running the channels to help the hosts get in behind Bielsa's high line, West Ham should have enough to secure the three points.

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