Premier League Acca Builder: Chelsea can beat Liverpool at the Bridge

Premier League Acca Builder: Chelsea can beat Liverpool at the Bridge

There are two top four clashes this weekend, starting at the Emirates Stadium on New Year’s Day.

Wide-open Arsenal to play into City’s hands

Arsenal v Man City
Saturday, 12:30
Live on BT Sport 1

The last time these sides met it finished 5-0 to Manchester City, and indeed Arsenal have a well-established pattern under Mikel Arteta of beating teams below them but losing heavily to teams above them. The simple reason for that is Arteta only has one way of playing, refusing to adapt his tactics or sit deeper than usual. It points to another big win for Pep Guardiola’s side on Saturday.

Arsenal will be expanded in their shape and look to pass out carefully from the back, working intricately around the Man City press via their midfielders and forwards making themselves available for vertical passes through the lines. That tends to work very well against inferior opponents, but City should frequently pinch the ball and break quickly into the gaps.

We rarely see Guardiola’s team counter, even though they are very good at it, because so few opponents open themselves up to it. But the hosts will, and with Kevin de Bruyne back in form Man City’s incredible array of attacking talent will surely overwhelm the Arsenal back four as they frantically backpedal after a turnover. This could be like a simple training match for the league leaders.

Back Man City to beat Arsenal with a -1 handicap @ 2.47/5

Lucas and Son to pierce flaky midfield

Watford v Spurs
Saturday, 15:00

Watford have so far failed to take on any of the identity of a Claudio Ranieri team and the Italian may not be in the job for much longer. They are not good enough through central midfield or cental defence, where a porousness has taken hold. Any half-decent team can break through the lines in the dribble and pull a chaotic defence out of their base shape.

By contrast, Antonio Conte’s Tottenham are coming together. This is most notable in how their central midfielders are playing quick one-touch passes into the forward line, a sure sign that some automatisms are taking shape on the training ground. And while the use of wing-backs still needs work, suggesting Watford won’t need too much out wide on Saturday, Conte’s 3-4-2-1 will dominate centrally.

Lucas Moura and Heung-Min Son are working very well together in the number 10 space, which is precisely where Watford are weakest. West Ham tore through the middle in their last match, scoring four times, and so Lucas’s dribbling – along with the runs of Son and in-form Harry Kane – should comfortably breeze through the hosts.

Back Spurs to beat Watford with a -1 handicap @ 2.89/5


Tuchel counters could end Liverpool title challenge

Chelsea v Liverpool
Sunday, 16:30
Live on Sky Sports Premier League

A draw is no good for either Thomas Tuchel or Jurgen Klopp after some poor recent results, which may mean we get an open game towards the end at Stamford Bridge. Before then, expect another claustrophobic midfield battle as two cautious approaches create a difficult game with few clear-cut chances. A lot will rest on which of Thiago and N’Golo Kante can control the rhythm of the game.

However, a frantic opening 20 minutes defined the 1-1 draw in the reverse fixture and we should get another fast start on Sunday. The general tactical pattern of the game will be Liverpool possession against Chelsea counters, because Tuchel tends to play conservatively in big games in the hope his front three can get in behind on the break.

The hosts have the edge here. As Liverpool’s full-backs are lured forward, a narrow front three of Callum Hudson-Odoi, Mason Mount, and Romelu Lukaku should find the space they need to counter, especially if Chelsea can launch long balls forward as Tottenham did against Liverpool. Trent Alexander-Arnold will have space, but a very narrow Chelsea formation means no room in the box for chance creation. The hosts might be able to repeat what Leicester did to Liverpool a few days ago.

Back Chelsea to win @ 2.8815/8

Rangnick’s 4-2-2-2 to come unstuck again

Man Utd v Wolves
Monday, 20:00
Live on Sky Sports Premier League

A well-rested Wolves are very difficult to unlock. Bruno Lage knows how to set up a defensive system, deploying a very conservative 5-3-2 formation in big games and sitting every man behind the ball. They held 37% possession in the 0-0 draw with Chelsea and even less than that in unfortunate 1-0 defeats to Liverpool and Manchester City. There is no doubt Man Utd will be given the same treatment.

That is bad news for Ralf Rangnick’s side, who really aren’t clicking in a 4-2-2-2 formation that seems unsuited to the players. They are rarely creating chances in matches, struggling to find fluency from within such an unusually narrow shape. Ultimately, Wolves’ ability to stay compact and shut down the central column of the pitch will severely limited the hosts’ capacity to create chances from open play.

Cristiano Ronaldo does not look comfortable with a strike partner, even if United’s pressing has improved, while Bruno Fernandes has been neutralised in an unfamiliar inside forward role. Unless Rangnick switches system, which doesn’t seem likely, this will be another very dull game defined by two ruthlessly-structured formations that leave almost no space for individual creative expression.

Back under 1.5 goals @ 3.613/5