Premier League Tactical Preview: Eriksen v Kante and other key battles

Things might be about to get a lot worse for Chelsea...
Things might be about to get a lot worse for Chelsea...
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Alex Keble reutrns for his weekly tactical blog, picking out four key battles ahead of the weekend Premier League action...

"The key battle on Wembley’s enormous pitch will surely be in central midfield, where these two – along with Mousa Dembele – should run rings around Chelsea’s two-man midfield."

Liverpool v Crystal Palace

Klopp's pressing decision v Ruben Loftus-Cheek

The result of this match hinges upon how high Jurgen Klopp instructs his players to press. He should follow the example set by Huddersfield Town, who dispatched of Crystal Palace by standing off the centre-backs and allowing them to play plenty of short passes, as per their new manager's tactical instructions. By pressing only in the middle third, Huddersfield constantly intercepted Palace's attempts at playing through the middle while leaving very little space in behind for Wilfried Zaha.

Frank de Boer was frustrated by his side's incessant attempts to play short passes when they clearly weren't working, and so Palace will no doubt play long balls this weekend towards Christian Benteke. This might catch Klopp by surprise; if Liverpool frantically gegenpress the back three in an attempt to force mistakes, they might just get caught out - particularly given how dominant Ruben Loftus-Cheek can be in attacking midfield.

His power and composure made him Palace's stand-out performer on Saturday, and he will collect the second balls that fall around Benteke more often than not. However, if Liverpool stand off Palace, they can make the midfield compressed, dampening the impact of Benteke, Loftus-Cheek, and Zaha all at once. More likely, however, is a high Liverpool press that misjudges Palace's intentions under De Boer, leading to dangerous set-piece situations for the visitors.

Recommended Bet
Back Palace to win and both teams to score at 10/1

Stoke City v Arsenal

Kolasinac's runs v Stoke's wing-backs

Stoke City's 3-4-2-1 looks vulnerable in wide areas, partly because Mame Biram Diouf is an unconvincing right wing-back but mostly because their lazy front three rarely track back. Bojan, Xherdan Shaqiri, and Sadio Berahino all renege on defensive duties, which should make it easy for Arsenal to overwhelm the hosts on the flanks.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Hector Bellerin both found too much space against a narrow Leicester City team, but this was primarily because the Foxes were caught out by Sead Kolasinac's marauding runs out of defence. He burst forward at every opportunity, taking the game by the scruff of the neck and breaking through the opposition lines before they had time to get into shape.

Kolasinac's runs and distribution into the wings should hurt Diouf. Chamberlain completed eight dribbles last weekend, more than any other player in the division, largely thanks to Riyad Mahrez's lack of interest in helping out his right-back. Stoke will surely suffer a similar fate.

Recommended Bet
Back Arsenal to win with a -1 handicap at 15/8

Huddersfield Town v Newcastle United

Mooy crosses v deep-lying Newcastle

Rafa Benitez is a cautious manager who will be wary of Huddersfield's high-pressing philosophy. Consequently we can expect Newcastle to sit deep and fire long balls for Dwight Gayle to chase, which should limit Huddersfield's creativity while taking advantage of their high back line. It is telling that the Magpies won 3-1 at the Kirklees Stadium last April despite holding just 24% possession.

The key player for the hosts will be Aaron Mooy, an £8 million signing from Manchester City who excelled on his Premier League debut at Palace. His biting tackles and commanding passes controlled the game for Wagner's side, and against a deeper opponent this weekend he should see a lot more of the ball.

This should be a stodgy, low-scoring game settled by a single moment of magic. Mooy, who set up the first two goals with his crosses at Selhurst Park, could make the difference again. His set-piece delivery for Steve Mounie could make the difference against a Newcastle team that switched off on Saturday when Christian Eriksen crossed for an unmarked Dele Alli.

Recommended Bet
Back Huddersfield to win at 13/10

Tottenham Hotpsur v Chelsea

Alli & Eriksen v Chelsea's threadbare midfield

Another Mourinho-esque capitulation seems entirely plausible for the champions. Not only is their squad riddled with injuries and suspensions following a diabolical transfer window, but their manager appears unhappy and the fixture list has dealt them a cruel hand. If Diego Costa is correct when he says that Conte "is not a coach who is very close with his players" and "doesn't possess charisma" then the club are in deep trouble.

Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen made typically bright starts to the season during Spurs' routine win against Newcastle, with the Denmark international in particular pulling the strings in that familiarly narrow Tottenham midfield, grabbing two assists.

The key battle on Wembley's enormous pitch will surely be in central midfield, where these two - along with Mousa Dembele - should run rings around Chelsea's two-man midfield. N'Golo Kante (who was badly off form last weekend) will partner one of Jeremie Boga, Kenedy, or David Luiz in the middle. It is very difficult to envisage Chelsea picking up any points on Sunday.

Recommended Bet
Back Spurs to win at 20/21

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