Coaching soulmates Pep Guardiola and Thomas Tuchel lock horns in a tactical confrontation of monumental proportions in Saturday’s Premier League early kick-off clash that’s likely to have a strong bearing on the destiny of the title.
Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel is an avowed Guardiola admirer, and always reserved time to study his Manchester City counterpart’s training methods when both men were cutting their coaching teeth at Mainz and Barcelona respectively.
Pep remains the benchmark in managerial circles for guiding the Catalan club, Bayern Munich, and Manchester City to league titles in nine out of his last eleven years as manager, but Tuchel has developed exponentially over the last 24 months by reaching Champions League finals in successive years.
The German tactician may be the apprentice to the master Guardiola; however, last season he became only the second coach to beat a Guardiola managed side on three consecutive occasions when he masterminded victories over Manchester City in the league, FA Cup, and, crucially, in the Champions League final in Oporto. Both men are masters at tactical interventions to hand their teams initiative, but Guardiola has taken flak in recent years for ‘over-thinking his tactics’, resulting in unexpected European losses to Monaco, Olympique Lyon, and Chelsea.
Hordes of City fans blamed the 0-1 final loss on the Spaniard’s decision not to field any of his holding midfielders – Fernandinho and Rodri – as a counterpoint to the usual Chelsea double pivot of Jorginho and Ngolo Kante. With City three points behind pacesetters Chelsea, Liverpool, and Manchester United, it will be interesting to see whether the three-time EPL winner fields either or both of his holding midfielders.
Kante’s all-action display in Chelsea’s 3-0 second-half barrage over Spurs last week has given Tuchel a conundrum to solve. City’s propensity to dominate possession suggests the German may deploy the Jorginho-Mateo Kovacic- Kante triumvirate to give his team a stronger foothold in central midfield. The bigger question will be who between Kai Havertz and Mason Mount, the Chelsea boss deploys as a support striker/half nine to frontman Romelu Lukaku.
Defeats in two of Manchester United’s last three rubbers – in the Champions League at Young Boys Berne and Carabao Cup at home to West Ham – have thrown the spotlight on Old Trafford boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Anything but victory over an Aston Villa side boasting a more than competent front three of Leon Bailey, Daniel Ings, and Ollie Watkins will wipe away all the optimism generated by Cristiano Ronaldo’s free-scoring homecoming.
Surprise package Brentford will meanwhile be targeting a major scalp when they entertain Jurgen Klopp’s 2020 champions, Liverpool. With seven goals between them, Kop strikers Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane has started the season like a bullet train but may have found their equal in energetic Bees forward Ivan Toney, who is English football’s most productive striker with 43 goal involvements during 2021.
On Sunday, Arsenal supremo Mikel Arteta and his Spurs counterpart Nuno Espirito Santos aim to calm an early season storm when they collide at Emirates Stadium. Arsenal have recovered from three consecutive losses without scoring at the season’s commencement to register back-to-back wins whereas Spurs are hoping to recover from successive 0-3 reverses at the hands of Crystal Palace and Chelsea.
Chelsea v Manchester City,
Manchester United v Aston Villa,
Leicester City v Burnley,
Everton v Norwich City,
Leeds United v West Ham,
Watford v Newcastle Utd
Brentford v Liverpool
Southampton v Wolves,
Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur
Crystal Palace v Brighton Hove