Manchester United host West Ham on November 28 at Old Trafford. Both teams are desperate for a win—for two very different reasons.
The Red Devils will be looking to extend their lead at the top of table, while West Ham seem just one more loss away from a crisis. Despite a strong start from Sam Allardyce's men, adverse result streaks at this time of the year are dangerous prospects.
Let's take a look at how this game could play out from a tactical point of view.
Lineups, formations and team news
Both lineups become hard to predict considering the short notice between games at this point.
West Ham have lost midfield stalwart Mark Noble through suspension, and with Alou Diarra out injured, George Moncur could be set to take a place in midfield alongside Mohamed Diame.
Similarly, United lose Paul Scholes to suspension, so Michael Carrick and Anderson could be the partnership Sir Alex Ferguson opts for.
The key for Manchester United is to start fast.
The Red Devils have been unable to make things happen due to a lack of vertical threat and mobility in the central midfield area. Carrick and Scholes are great players in a deep role, but can they force the issue?
No, they can't, but Fergie has two players available who can play a penetrative, forceful role. One is Phil Jones, but due to his recent return from injury we're unlikely to see him.
The other is Anderson—the man who most United fans are desperate to see start. After he single-handedly transformed the look of his team during his cameo against QPR, Fergie would be nuts not to start him.
The Hammers will arrive in Manchester with the intention of stifling their opponent and grinding out a draw.
Should Ferguson opt for a more steady midfield, expect serious congestion in the middle of the park due to a deep-set West Ham holding pivot.
Wayne Rooney could look to isolate Moncur should the youngster step into the starting XI, but space will be at a premium and they could be forced wide.
That makes Antonio Valencia's probable missing of this game even more hurtful, as Fergie could be relying on right-back Rafael to provide width, stretch the pitch and deliver crosses.