Premier League Tactical Preview: United can end Liverpool's unbeaten run

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp
Klopp may be left frustrated again this Sunday

For Premier League Gameweek 19 Alex Keble picks out four key tactical battles and says that Manchester United have the tools to beat Liverpool at Anfield...

"Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial should be able to get behind those marauding Liverpool full-backs, as well as cut inside to join Edinson Cavani when United pump longer passes over the top of the defence."

Contrasting styles should create entertaining game

Leicester City v Southampton
Saturday, 20:00
Live on BT Sport 1

Southampton and Leicester both play with a lot of pressing and a lot of vertical ball progression, with both managers keen on counter-attacking or counter-pressing; catching their opponent in the transition. Danny Ings and Jamie Vardy could both get in behind on Saturday as two aggressive sides create a tense game of football that lurches between claustrophobic midfield battles and open expanses of grass.

Ralph Hasenhuttl will instruct his players to push up from goal kicks and press the full-backs, before sitting in a deeper 4-4-2 when Leicester get up to the half-way line, whereas Leicester will be slightly more cautious in their approach, looking to dominate the ball and then play longer passes to evade the Saints press.

There are fascinating match-ups everywhere.

Brendan Rodgers' two-man midfield is in danger of being too light on numbers as Stuart Armstrong and Moussa Djenepo cut infield on the counter, but Harvey Barnes and James Maddison are excellent at ghosting into pockets of space behind an aggressive midfield line. Finally, there's the issue of set-pieces: Leicester have conceded the second most Premier League goals from set-pieces (eight) and Southampton have scored the most (nine).

Confident Blades to stand firm against Spurs

Sheffield United v Tottenham
Sunday, 14:00
Live on Sky Sports Main Event

Jose Mourinho is instructing his players to back off and try to hold onto narrow leads, whether consciously or subconsciously; leaving Gareth Bale, Carlos Vinicus, and Dele Alli on the bench for the Fulham game sent a loud message of protection and fear.

By contrast, Sheffield United are always expected to play with swagger, and after back-to-back wins can expect to hold about 50% of the ball this weekend, with Spurs sitting off them as they pass the ball around the back.

A low-scoring game beckons, then, and not only because Tottenham will once again fail to assert themselves properly. As Heung-Min Son struggles for form opponents only need to stifle Harry Kane to nullify Spurs, and with everyone coming short for the ball a compact 3-5-2 like Sheffield United's won't be pulled around very much. Close down Kane, and Tottenham can't progress the ball with enough speed to trouble the hosts.

For the 1-0 win over Newcastle United, Chris Wilder restored his original three-man midfield line-up of Oliver Norwood, John Lundstrum, and Jon Fleck, the mainstays of the team when Sheffield United took the division by storm in the first half of last season. With these three finding cohesion together again, Kane is unlikely to do well.

Jose Mourinho head on smile 1280.jpg

United's counters can cause real damage

Liverpool v Manchester United
Sunday, 16:30
Live on Sky Sports Main Event

Everything is set up for Liverpool to lose their first league game at Anfield since April 2017. Jurgen Klopp's injury crisis means central midfielders at centre-back again, and with his front three looking jaded that makes Liverpool vulnerable; to playing stale possession football and then being hit on the break. That is how Southampton beat them on Monday, constantly looking for long balls over the top of Liverpool's high line.

Man Utd's pace in their front three should make it relatively simple for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to deploy his usual 'Big Six' strategy of sitting deep, absorbing pressure, and countering quickly down the flanks.

Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial should be able to get behind those marauding Liverpool full-backs, as well as cut inside to join Edinson Cavani when United pump longer passes over the top of the defence.

To get the win, United need to first focus on their defensive shape. They need to make sure they sit in a 4-4-2 formation with Bruno Fernandes alongside the striker - and in front of Thiago, ensuring Liverpool's deep-lying playmaker is sandwiched by bodies. If Thiago is taken out of the game, Liverpool's passing will be slow and aimless, providing the visitors with a platform for a famous win.

Foden the key to unlocking Tomkins-inspired Palace

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

Crystal Palace have rapidly improved in the four games since James Tomkins returned from injury, conceding just two goals and winning five points from his three Premier League matches. The stark difference is highlighted by the fact Roy Hodgson's side lost their two games prior to his return by an aggregate of 10-0.

The 0-0 draw with Arsenal on Thursday night exemplified his leadership at the back, as Palace looked cohesive and dangerous in their deep-lying, counter-attacking 4-4-2; this is not going to be an easy game for Manchester City. If they over-stretch in search of the opening goal then Eberichi Eze and Wilfried Zaha could cause them problems.

Phil Foden is City's important weapon in the fight. His effortless ability to glide on the ball, to roam into space, and to slip passes through the opposition lines has proved crucial in many games this season and notably in City's 1-0 win over Brighton last weekend. Whereas Kevin de Bruyne may struggle to find space in a compact central midfield, Foden can cut in from the left, arriving late and unseen to pick the lock.

It will be narrow, but City can scrape the three points.

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