Premier League Tactical Preview: Willian v Yedlin and other key battles

Willian should be able to expose the poor defending of Newcastle right-back Yedlin
Willian should be able to expose the poor defending of Newcastle right-back Yedlin
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Alex Keble returns with his weekly tactical preview of the Premier League, picking out four key battles including why Watford could inflict yet more damage on Spurs...

"Rafa Benitez’s side have conceded nine goals in their last three matches and, incredibly, right-back DeAndre Yedlin was directly responsible for seven of these."

Chelsea v Newcastle

Willian v Yedlin
Saturday, 12:30, Live on Sky Sports Premier League

Chelsea have been overly reliant on individual moments of magic this season; a one-goal margin has settled five of their nine league wins, largely because they have played in a 3-5-2 this season and are missing Victor Moses's creativity. But for the visit of struggling Newcastle Antonio Conte should continue with the 3-4-2-1 he used against Swansea City, meaning Willian and Eden Hazard can play together on the flanks - exposing the Magpies' one big weakness.

Rafa Benitez's side have conceded nine goals in their last three matches and, incredibly, right-back DeAndre Yedlin was directly responsible for seven of these. Whether scoring an own goal, being beaten too easily by the left winger, being caught woefully out of position to give the left winger a free run at goal, or failing to track a runner as crosses come in towards him, Yedlin's poor defending has seriously let Newcastle down.

Willian and Hazard happily float to either wing while Alvaro Morata instinctively comes to the left-hand post to win headers, which means Yedlin could be beaten in any of the above ways. Willian attempted 11 crosses against Swansea City on Wednesday, evenly spread across the two flanks. Whether attacking Yedlin one-on-one or standing the ball up for Morata to out-jump the American, Chelsea should comfortably exploit the chink in Newcastle's armour.

Recommended Bet
Back Chelsea to win with a -2 handicap at 21/10


Everton v Huddersfield

Rooney v Wagner's high line
Saturday, 15:00

Sam Allardyce couldn't have asked for an easier start to life at Goodison Park. Since the opening day of the season Huddersfield haven't scored a goal on the road and have lost their last three by an aggregate of 12-0. David Wagner's biggest problem is that a high line, high pressing system becomes increasingly disjointed when confidence is low and decision-making becomes hesitant, leading to sporadic bursts of pressing and a totally disorganised defence.

Wayne Rooney's outstanding performance from central midfield on Wednesday mimicked a role he will surely play under Allardyce, who loves a midfielder capable of playing long accurate balls into the channels to help move the team up the pitch (think Mark Noble, Yohan Cabaye, and Kevin Nolan). He will be the most important player in the Big Sam project, starting on Saturday.

Huddersfield's high back line means Rooney, collecting the ball in his own half and thus under no pressure, can fire passes over the top for Dominic Calvert-Lewin to chase, simplifying their attacking patterns. Allardyce isn't just a long-ball merchant though; Everton will look to race down the flanks via the full-backs and whip crosses into the box via Gylfi Sigurdsson. The Terriers don't have the right playing style, or the confidence, to stop Rooney from dominating the game.

Recommended Bet
Back Everton to win with a -1 handicap at 21/10


Watford v Tottenham Hotspur

Doucoure & Cleverly v Dembele & Sissoko
Saturday, 15:00

Tottenham Hotspur's lethargy will be the decisive factor in this one. Three league matches without a win has left Mauricio Pochettino's team looking jaded, leading to low-tempo performances in which they cannot build quickly enough through midfield. Dele Alli's strange transformation into a second striker is frequently leaving Spurs with too few options in the middle, and this could prove their downfall again on Saturday.

Watford are one of the most aggressive and energetic teams in the country. Their tactical plan involves pressing constantly and surging forward in packs through the centre of the park. They have exactly the sort of cohesive and high-tempo traits Spurs are currently lacking.

Central midfield will surely be the key battleground. Abdoulaye Doucoure and Tom Cleverly have forged an outstanding partnership, and along with Roberto Pereyra (likely to deputise for the injured Will Hughes) they might just overwhelm such a leggy Spurs midfield, winning all the second balls to increase the timidity of Pochettino's side.

Recommended Bet
Back Watford to win at 15/4


Stoke City v Swansea City

Crouch v Mawson
Saturday, 15:00

The biggest match of the weekend is at the bottom of the table, where two of this year's worst Premier League teams go head-to-head at the Bet365 stadium. These sorts of matches are always cagey and low on quality, but Stoke's latest incarnation of their front three should have enough to beat the Swans.

Peter Crouch earned his first start of the season against Chelsea in midweek and should stay in the side on Saturday after winning an unbelievable 18 headers against Liverpool, the most of any player this season. He remains very dangerous in the air, then, meaning the two inside forwards Xherdan Shaqiri and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting have something to target with their crosses into the box.

Craig Mawson is Swansea's most effective aerial presence (3.4 won per match), meaning he will most likely track Crouch at set-pieces - of which Stoke have scored six already this campaign. One good delivery should settle this game in Mark Hughes's favour.

Recommended Bet
Back Stoke to win at 20/23


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