Premier League Tactical Preview: Liverpool and Man Utd to produce goals at Old Trafford

Man Utd manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Man Utd and Liverpool should produce a classic this weekend.
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Alex Keble looks ahead to the 27th round of Premier League matches and the League Cup final, predicting plenty of goals in Man Utd v Liverpool and a comfortable City win...

"Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will continue to use a narrow 4-3-1-2 formation for the visit of Liverpool this weekend. It’s a shape that could cause the visitors problems on the counter-attack, but equally may leave United short in wide areas. There should be goals at both ends."

Anderson-Arnautovic counters to overpower Fulham's right flank

West Ham v Fulham
Friday, 19:45
Live on Sky Sports Premier League

Regardless of whether Claudio Ranieri reverts to a 3-4-3 or continues with the 4-2-3-1 used against Manchester United, Fulham's defenders don't have the positional awareness to track West Ham's quick attacking players on Friday. Leaning predominantly to the left, West Ham will counter-attack via Marko Arnautovic and Felipe Anderson, who together will surely prove too much for Denis Odoi and Cyrus Christie.

Fulham's top-heavy squad has forced Ranieri to continue to play on the front foot, meaning there are huge gaps for opponents to break into when the ball is won back. Crucially, Premier League clubs are aware of this flaw and adapt their tactics accordingly; even Man Utd held just 49% possession a fortnight ago, their first and third goals coming from simple, direct counters.

Odoi's positioning is alarming, while Christie is generally overworked down Fulham's right because Andre Schurrle won't track back. Consequently West Ham can repeatedly feed Anderson and expect the Brazilian to win his battle with Christie and Odoi, Arnautovic providing close support for one-twos and runs in behind.

Llorente could be key against resilient Burnley defence

Llorente-1280.jpg

Burnley v Tottenham
Saturday, 12:30
Live on Sky Sports Premier League

In the absence of Harry Kane and Dele Alli, Tottenham have gradually found their feet by ensuring they get bodies around Fernando Llorente, playing longer passes towards the target man and feeding off the second balls. It's how they made the breakthrough against Newcastle United and how they started the match against Leicester City.

Kane is fit again and could start but with games against Chelsea, Arsenal and Borussia Dortmund following in quick succession, Llorente may get a final chance in a starting berth.

An emphasis on narrowness probably won't work against the tight defensive blockade put up by a rejuvenated Burnley, meaning Spurs will have to rely on flying wing-backs and crosses into the penalty area. Danny Rose or Ben Davies will play a big role in creating space out wide to get the ball in towards Llorente - who stands a good chance of causing problems in the Burnley penalty area.

Contrary to popular belief Burnley are not very good at defending crosses into the box, their lack of height causing issues around Ben Mee. Brighton's equaliser from a set-piece a fortnight ago showed how Llorente can take advantage, while Man Utd salvaged a 2-2 draw in the previous match by peppering the box with crosses and causing panic in the Burnley defence. Eventually Ashley Young's delivery earned United a point.

Solskjaer's 4-3-1-2 to create chances at both ends

Man Utd v Liverpool
Sunday, 14:05
Live on Sky Sports Premier League

Injuries to Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial, coupled with Man Utd's solid performance in the FA Cup against Chelsea, suggests Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will continue to use a narrow 4-3-1-2 formation for the visit of Liverpool this weekend. It's a shape that could cause the visitors problems on the counter-attack, but equally may leave United short in wide areas. There should be goals at both ends.

Solskjaer has shown a desire to sit off in the big games, happily inviting on some pressure before launching counters; Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford will split wide as striker partners, making runs on the outside of the Liverpool centre-backs in order to take advantage of how high up the pitch Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold stand. That should create opportunities for the hosts, albeit with Virgil van Dijk returning from suspension Liverpool are unlikely to concede more than once.

But the problem with United's formation, as Kylian Mbappe and Angel di Maria showed in the Champions League, is that it leaves the flanks too open should the opponent distribute quickly into wide areas. Liverpool tend to do just that, with Sadio Mane getting on the ball early in a move to drive into the final third. His battle with Eric Bailly, and Mohamed Salah's with Victor Lindelof, won't be supported by covering United wingers.

Chelsea's pressing to cause déjà vu as Man City dominate

Chelsea v Man City
Sunday, 16:30
Live on Sky Sports Football

Maurizio Sarri's stubbornness looks set to cost him his job, and indeed the deeper Chelsea fall into the crisis the more inflexible his tactics become. Consequently we can expect the same high-pressing 4-3-3 in Sunday's Carabao Cup final as we saw in Man City's 6-0 humiliation of the Blues at the Etihad on February 10.

N'Golo Kante will again play higher up the pitch as Jorginho struggles alone at the base of midfield, which should allow Kevin de Bruyne and David Silva to easily overwhelm Chelsea through the middle. But more importantly, Chelsea will once again try to beat City at their game, frantically pressing the centre-backs in order to disrupt the rhythm of Pep Guardiola's side. However, City should comfortably out-manoeuvre this disorganised, demotivated Chelsea side and gallop into the large spaces left in midfield.

There are mismatches all over the pitch. Cesar Azpilicueta versus Leroy Sane will expose the full-back's brittleness, as will Fernando Alonso versus Raheem Sterling. Kante will get lost attempting to play with his back to goal against an inverted left-back, and in-form Sergio Aguero should give Antonio Rudiger the run around. It might not be another 6-0, but a comfortable City win is the only sensible bet.

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