The Premier League weekend starts with a London derby at the London Stadium. Michael Cox assesses the tactical battle and Alan Thompson provides the tactical lowdown...
"Pochettino likes his side to keep a very aggressive offside line, and therefore Bilic will surely be tempted to use raw speed upfront"
West Ham v Tottenham
Live on Sky Sports Main Event
Match Odds: West Ham [6.2], Tottenham [1.63], The Draw [4.4].
The Premier League weekend opens with a match between two sides struggling to adjust to new surroundings - West Ham are into their second period at the London Stadium, while Tottenham haven't won in three home league matches at Wembley so far. One suspects that these two sides might mutually agree to play this as a neutral venue.
But both sides have reason to be optimistic coming into this game - West Ham have beaten Spurs in three of their last four home matches in the league, while Spurs have won both their away matches so far this season.
West Ham have now kept three clean sheets in all competitions, although they're troubled by the absence of James Collins from their back three, which means Angelo Ogbonna is likely to come into the side. With Pedro Obiang missing from midfield and Manuel Lanzini also out, Slaven Bilic will have to shuffle his pack further forward, too.
Obiang's absence means Mark Noble and Cheikhou Kouyate are likely to form the midfield partnership. Further forward, Michail Antonio should start on the right flank, while Javier Hernandez has recently been fielded in an unfamiliar left-sided role. Andy Carroll is likely to lead the line. Whether this is the best option against Spurs, however, is questionable.
Mauricio Pochettino likes his side to keep a very aggressive offside line, and therefore Bilic will surely be tempted to use raw speed upfront - perhaps by putting Hernandez centrally, or by using Andre Ayew or Diafra Sakho who both impressed in the midweek win over Bolton. Carroll remains a huge threat in the air, but he might find himself pushed towards the halfway line too frequently.
In addition to long-term absentees Erik Lamela and Danny Rose, Tottenham are also without Victor Wanyama, and there's a doubt over left-sided Ben Davies, too. The Welshman has been in excellent form this season, and his absence would be a major blow, as Spurs don't really have a third option on the left flank - Kieran Trippier was unsuccessfully deployed there last weekend. Son Heung-min might be a better bet, especially as he'll be up against Pablo Zabaleta, who now badly lacks the speed to play as a wing-back.
Davinson Sanchez has slotted between Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen impressively, although the trio of Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli and Harry Kane isn't yet sparkling this season, and they struggled to break down a resilient Swansea defence last time out. Kane, however, has a magnificent record in London derbies, and Eriksen should be capable of finding space between the lines.
Eric Dier and Moussa Dembele should command the centre of the pitch, and therefore the most interesting battles here will be down the flanks. The battle between Davies or Son and Zabaleta seems one-sided, and you'd expect newcomer Serge Aurier, who has settled well in English football, to get the better of Aaron Cresswell, who is impressive technically but lacks the Ivorian's sheer speed.
Overall, the 3-4-3 versus 3-4-3 clash means lot of very obvious battles across the pitch, and Spurs will essentially man-mark their opposite numbers when aggressively pressing. West Ham are likely to stand off more, particularly high up the pitch. This means Vertonghen and Alderweireld will be able to step forward in possession, and they might be Spurs' most instrumental players with the ball.
Spurs are clearly the favourites, but I'm shocked to see them as short at [1.62] here. Pochettino's side dropped points against Burnley and Swansea at home, and with West Ham's defence looking more solid in recent weeks, I'll definitely be laying the away side at [1.62].
The Betfair Trader's View - Alan Thompson
Spurs were once again frustrated at Wembley as they failed to get the points against Swansea last weekend, while the Hammers will be looking to build on two positive results, and being back at home in a London derby they won’t need much more encouragement.
Spurs have won just one of their last four trips to West Ham, losing the last two, all four games produced a result under 2.5 goals. With both sides recording 0-0 draws last time out and the Hammers keeping back-to-back clean sheets, Under 2.5 Goals might not be a bad shout at around [2.3].
Last year Tottenham arrived here as short as [1.45] and when they lost 1-0 it effectively ended their title hopes, so they could come here wanting to settle an old score. They may also have an eye on their midweek Champions League game at APOEL, so while I think Spurs are the stronger side of the two, the price of [1.64] in the Match Odds doesn’t represent any value to me.
I am tempted to back West Ham at what I think are over generous odds of [6.2] (I had them at [4.6]) but I will err on the side of caution and will be laying Spurs at [1.64].