Man City v Chelsea
Live on BT Sport 1
Chelsea’s intensity in the 2-2 draw with Liverpool was evidence of how Thomas Tuchel would, in an ideal world, like to play. His intent to play aggressively vertical football was clear as Chelsea looked to play quickly in behind Liverpool’s high line, either through low or high balls, which in turn created an end-to-end match as Liverpool enjoyed breaking back the other way.
Manchester City don’t enjoy the chaos quite so much, but their high line will encourage Chelsea to play lots of direct football – particularly with Romelu Lukaku back in the team and playing on the shoulder of the last defender. What’s more, Pep Guardiola has shown an increasing willingness to play on the counter over the last two seasons. Kevin de Bruyne and Bernardo Silva will enjoy dribbling through the lines.
City’s passivity for periods of the win over Arsenal suggests Chelsea will have the chance to take a commanding lead in the game, although there is a mismatch on one flank as Riyad Mahrez is up against Marcus Alonso. It should be a great game with plenty of goals.
Newcastle v Watford
The most interesting aspect of this relegation six-pointer is, of course, how Newcastle United can integrate their two new signings. Given that Eddie Howe has struggled to move the club out of its defensive pattern and direct style of attack, there is certainly a case to be made that their season will be saved by Kieran Trippier providing for Chris Wood.
Watford have conceded eight goals from set-pieces this season, which gives Wood and Trippier the chance of a dream Premier League debut, although in a tight and low-quality game there is arguably a bigger chance that Watford will steal the show. Howe’s 4-4-2 formation often looks like a 4-2-4 given that Allan Saint-Maximin and Miguel Almiron advance significantly down the wings, which may give Watford ample counter-attacking opportunities.
Claudio Ranieri’s team are at their best when given the chance to break down the wings in old-fashioned style, using the speed of Emmanuel Dennis and Ken Sema to create chances. It is plausible we will see a smash-and-grab win for the visitors.
Aston Villa v Man Utd
Live on Sky Sports Premier League
Aston Villa were considerably better than Manchester United in the FA Cup on Monday night but were unable to convert their good positions into many clear goalscoring opportunities. However, the additions of Lucas Digne and Philippe Coutinho ought to solve the profligacy we saw in poor decisions made by Anwar El Ghazi and Matt Targett in particular.
Steven Gerrard’s 4-3-2-1 shape is particularly adept at blocking the middle of the pitch and, in a neatly compressed midblock, it was able to stifle Bruno Fernandes, who had a very poor game despite Ralf Rangnick shifting to a more conventional 4-2-3-1. It is highly likely United will once again struggle to create chances.
Villa dominated the midfield battle thanks to the superb quick-tempo triangles the new manager has already managed to impart to his players. John McGinn’s suspension puts a spanner in the works but with United’s midfield at its timid worst, Villa should still control the rhythms of the match. From here, the overlapping runs of Digne can pierce United in a way the hosts could not five days ago.
Tottenham v Arsenal
Live on Sky Sports Premier League
Arsenal have lost Mohamed Elneny and Thomas Partey to AFCON, significantly weakening central midfield and likely ensuring they cannot keep Tottenham penned in. Granit Xhaka does not have the defensive instincts to shut down breaks as Partey did against Man City.
That means the game will be more open and Spurs will be able to counter-attack with directness, as they love to do under Antonio Conte. As in their 2-2 draw with Liverpool, Spurs will use Eric Dier’s long-ball distribution to get Lucas Moura (playing at the head of a 3-5-2) in behind, taking advantage of Arsenal’s high defensive line.
Coupled with Gabriel’s suspension, this presents Arsenal with a serious problem, especially on their left side where Kieran Tierny may be overwhelmed without defensive support (Gabriel Martinelli stays high). Emerson Royal will, as ever, find himself the free man as Spurs drift long diagonals out to the right. If he can improve his end product, or if Harry Kane can continue his brilliant record in this fixture, the hosts will win.