Premier League Tactical Preview: Leicester could sneak into top four

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel
Tuchel's Chelsea might not finish in the top four.

Alex Keble assesses the tactical battles in the final Premier League games, predicting that Chelsea could drop points at Villa and allow Leicester back into the top four...

"The visitors should have the energy to catch Villa being naïve, although if Smith does decide to play with a cautious deep line then there is the chance of an upset through Jack Grealish."

Tuchel's quick transitions to catch Villa midfield

Aston Villa v Chelsea
Sunday, 16:00
Live on Sky Sports Action

Dean Smith likes Villa to play in an open and expansive shape whenever possible, complete with frequently recycling the ball across the back and building steady possession through their central midfielders. This is precisely the wrong way to play against Thomas Tuchel's Chelsea, who are quick in the transition and could pinch the ball from Villa to counter their way to victory.

The most important battle is between Marvelous Nakamba - who was sloppy on the ball at Tottenham - and Chelsea's inside forwards ready to snap at his heels and set Timo Werner in behind. The visitors should have the energy to catch Villa being naïve, although if Smith does decide to play with a cautious deep line then there is the chance of an upset through Jack Grealish.

Grealish should return to the left flank for this one, which means he will attack Chelsea's weakest area. Tuchel keeps trying new combinations to make them more secure here, and in the last two games has uncomfortably played Reece James as a right centre-back and Cesar Azpilicueta at right wing-back. With Matt Targett supporting, Grealish might just cause Chelsea some problems.

Thiago & TAA to ensure easy Anfield win

Liverpool v Crystal Palace
Sunday, 16:00
Live on Sky Sports Main Event

Crystal Palace are hoping to move away from Roy Hodgson's tactics with their next appointment, and it is easy to understand why when considering just how old-fashioned their deep-lying, narrow, and non-pressing 4-4-2 has been through this season. Unfortunately for Palace fans, this is the wrong approach to facing a team with full-backs like Liverpool's.

Hodgson's side are regularly guilty of being too narrow, squeezing the space centrally and leaving the flanks open for the opposition, and with Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah occupying the full-backs this will be even more prevalent than usual on Sunday. Consequently it will only require simple diagonals to get Trent Alexander-Arnold on the ball with room to create.

That will only happen if Liverpool dominate possession throughout, which they surely will with Thiago in this sort of form. He was superb again in midweek, dominating in pretty much every statistical category going; the Spaniard is getting better at anticipating and cleaning up as he learns English football, and alongside Fabinho will be able to ensure Palace are penned in their own third.

Jurgen Klopp - 1280.jpg

Muddled Spurs midfield to be outwitted

Leicester v Tottenham Hotspur
Sunday, 16:00
Live on Sky Sports Football

Ryan Mason has done well to steady the ship at Spurs, but he is not blameless when it comes to getting the central midfield wrong. His team were out-foxed by a Jack Grealish-led Villa midfield in midweek as Harry Winks and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg looked too flat and passive. Mason needs to make sure he plays a progressive passer in midfield to connect with Dele Alli; his unwillingness to start Tanguy Ndombele is becoming a problem.

Spurs have too many forwards on the pitch and huge amounts of space between those four and the two in midfield. That is not a good situation to be heading into a game against Wilfried Ndidi, Youri Tielemans, and James Maddison. Brendan Rodgers will return to a 3-4-1-2 after Leicester City's pressing game fell apart in a 3-4-2-1 for the first hour against Chelsea. It is the right system to press hard and catch those disconnected Spurs midfielders.

Once Leicester win the ball in dangerous areas they can feed Kelechi Iheanacho and Jamie Vardy in behind a tired-looking Spurs back line. Leicester really ought to finish the season with a confident victory on Sunday.

Lallana's introduction should create an open game

Arsenal v Brighton
Sunday, 16:00
Live on Sky Sports Arena

Brighton's comeback against Manchester City midweek was partly the result of their aggression in pushing up the pitch but largely Graham Potter's 49th minute decision to take off Alireza Jahanbakhsh and replaced him with Adam Lallana, moving from a 3-5-2 to a 3-4-2-1 formation. This gave them control in midfield against Rodri and Fernandinho, with Lallana again excelling in a deeper midfield role.

There is a good chance Potter will begin this match as he ended the last, and while that means Brighton will play with coherence through midfield it could leave them far too open to the direct dribbling of Mikel Arteta's free-form attack. Yves Bissouma will have a lot of work to do to cover for Lallana, which should allow Emile Smith Rowe to get on the ball in space.

In fact, with nothing much on the line for either side this has all the hallmarks of an end-of-season thriller. Both teams will be going for it, and with fans creating an unstable environment inside the Emirates we should see the ball flying from one end to the other.

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