Newcastle to take points from Mourinho


Leicester City v Manchester City
Saturday, 17:30
Live on Sky Sports Main Event

With Manchester City considerably more defensively secure than they were in September, and with Brendan Rodgers happy to adapt to the opposition, there is little chance this will be another 5-2. However, Leicester City certainly can complete the double: as Pep Guardiola’s side dominate possession and territory, the Foxes can counter-attack to success.

The 3-4-1-2 formation is well-suited to nullifying Man City’s attack, in that Leicester will have plenty of bodies in the central column of the pitch where Guardiola funnels his attack. What’s more, Wilfried Ndidi and Youri Tielemans are likely to track Kevin de Bruyne and Phil Foden particularly well, before releasing Leicester’s tandem strikers on the counter.

Kelechi Iheanacho and Jamie Vardy are excelling in the new formation thanks to a more direct approach from Rodgers. Tielemans is bypassing the attacking midfield space altogether to feed the strikers as they make runs on the outside of the centre-backs, and given City’s high line this may be very effective. Leicester could channel some of the low-block, counter-attacking football of their famous title-winning campaign.

Arsenal v Liverpool
Saturday, 20:00
Live on Sky Sports Main Event

Liverpool have all four of their forwards available for the first time since December, and after a two-week break from club football Jurgen Klopp’s side may feel psychologically refreshed. Put those things together and you get the return of a hard-pressing Liverpool attack, which should force more trademark defensive errors from Arsenal as they pass carefully out from the back.

But Arsenal are perhaps slight favourites, thanks to Jordan Henderson’s absence. The Liverpool midfield continues to look stilted, particularly in the right-centre space where Thiago is struggling to adapt to the speed and physicality of the division. Arsenal, who focus on quick tempo-changing passes through the lines, should be able to target Thiago by stationing Martin Odegaard and Emile Smith Rowe around him.

What’s more, Liverpool’s latest centre-back pairing of Ozan Kabak and Nat Phillips hasn’t really been tested despite recording back-to-back clean sheets. The pace of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang may cause them problems, forcing yet another rethink in the dugout.

Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool manager.jpg

Newcastle v Tottenham
Sunday, 14:05
Live on Sky Sports Main Event

Steve Bruce’s diamond 4-4-2 is supposedly a more attacking system but they continue to look caught between styles, reflecting how the club is pulling in different directions as Bruce’s time at Newcastle United draws towards an end. However, while Brighton could elegantly pass through them, a team of Tottenham’s stature will allow Bruce to sit deeper and frustrate, possibly leading to more dropped points for Jose Mourinho.

Spurs lack detail in their attacking patterns, with the forwards expected to improvise – which is they are so good when given space to counter-attack and so flat when up against a deep-lying defence. Consequently a trip to St. James Park is exactly the kind of match they don’t like; Mourinho’s team will be laboured in possession, and with no spaces in behind for Heung-Min Son or Gareth Bale Newcastle can suck the life out of the contest.

When Tottenham are forced to dominate possession Harry Kane is the only creative presence, dropping deep to create chances out of nothing. Newcastle’s diamond midfield, then, is a good selection to crowd out the number ten zone in which Kane likes to play.

Man Utd v Brighton
Sunday, 19:30
Live on BT Sport 1

Brighton are an incredibly open team. They spread high and wide in order to play their aesthetically-pleasing football, and it tends to lead to end-to-end games, just as it did in Man Utd’s 3-2 win in the reverse fixture earlier this season. Given that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer likes to play on the counter-attack, and that Brighton are naively keen on hogging possession no matter the quality of the opposition, there are bound to be goals on Sunday.

Adam Lallana is enjoying a new deeper midfield role in a 3-4-1-2, and while that will give Brighton more possession it makes them even flakier in central midfield; on the one hand Lallana can help get in-form Danny Welbeck into dangerous positions, but on the other Yves Bissouma has an awful lot of ground to cover with Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba lurking centrally.

Marcus Rashford is an injury doubt, but if he plays then he is the player to watch out for. Brighton have been deploying Pascal Gross at right wing-back, and with Ben White coming across to cover Potter’s team clearly lack pace on this flank. Rashford, on the break, can dominate.