Premier League 17/18: Manchester City vs Brighton & Hove Albion – Lineups, Preview and Prediction
After flying to safety against United, the Seagulls take on a City side looking to break records in their final home match of the season
20:00 BST, Wednesday 9th May, Etihad Stadium (Manchester, England)
After beating Manchester United for only the second time in the club’s history, Chris Hughton’s Seagulls now turn their attention to the other side of the city.
With 40 points already secured, Brighton have nothing to lose but an effectively inconsequential game in the grand scheme of their season.
In facing this year’s champions though, they have a lot to gain from a big performance.
Pep Guardiola’s team failed to hit their stride when they took on a newly promoted team last weekend but will look to prevent lightning striking twice at the Etihad on Wednesday evening.
With the league trophy officially lifted and celebrations already underway in Manchester, Guardiola will use the scent of attaining new points and goals records to push his champions to new heights.
Last Time Out
Manchester City 0-0 Huddersfield Town (Premier League)
On the afternoon that City lifted the Premier League trophy aloft in the Etihad’s centre circle, a strangely subdued game played out on the new champions pitch.
With Huddersfield still not guaranteed their place in next season’s top-flight, the Terriers battled hard and provided a stern challenge for Guardiola’s side.
City managed one less shot on target (2) than the visitors in a match which became bogged down in midfield.
There was another chance for Ben Mendy to pick up more minutes to aid his return from injury and the left-back looked pleasingly comfortable in the half-hour cameo he received.
Guardiola also tried to force a win in the final stages of the game through the introduction of Bernardo Silva for John Stones. However, Huddersfield nervously hung on to maintain the fixtures unblemished scoresheet.
Brighton & Hove Albion 1-0 Manchester United (Premier League)
Brighton were rewarded for their superior desire with a deserved win over the Red Devils for the first time in 36 years.
Unlike the visitors, Brighton began the game full of energy and intent. The home side had the better of the opening exchanges and only some acrobatic saves from David de Gea kept them from taking an early lead while Marouane Fellaini also had a goal correctly disallowed for offside.
Anthony Knockaert and José Izquierdo gave Brighton balance and threat down each wing, the former putting in his most impressive display of what has been a relatively quiet campaign compared to the expectations which surrounded last season’s Championship player of the year.
The goal eventually came from a cross by Izquierdo and befittingly, the head of Pascal Groß who has been Brighton’s star player of this season. It could soon have been two when Knockaert thought he’d won a penalty but Brighton were then forced to defend as the away team looked to reply.
Hughton’s men proved they had enough to resist United’s advances though, seeing out an impressive win which was only their 2nd victory over United from the 19 meetings in the club’s history.
Manchester City Lineup
Only Sergio Agüero (knee) remains unavailable for City. However, the return of Vincent Kompany in defence could be one of few changes from their previous starting lineup.
The long-term injuries to Izzy Brown (knee) and Steve Sidwell (back) remain the only problem facing Hughton in this match.
While he could be tempted to name an unchanged team, Hughton faces touch decisions in both defence and attack that could see alterations made to the wing-back and lone-striker positions.
Key Battle: Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City) vs Shane Duffy (Brighton)
Jesus’ scoring run of a goal in each of his previous four league starts came to an end last weekend but the Brazilian will look to pick up where he left off against the Seagulls.
With 12 goals and seven assists in the Premier League so far this season, Jesus has been directly involved in a goal at an average of once every 81.4 minutes.
Despite being overshadowed by some of his teammates this season, it is an impressive return for a 21-year-old who is still very much improving his game.
Brighton’s defensive organiser will be looking to temporarily prevent Jesus improving his return.
The Irish centre-back shackled Marcus Rashford in his previous game as well as making six headed clearances as United looked to play more directly.
This type of performance has become expected of Duffy and will again be required if his team are to shut out City in this fixture.
Lighting up the world
It remains to be seen how much of an impact this City squad can make in the future, yet few can argue with the way they have captured the imagination this season.
Guardiola has beautifully refined his philosophies to devastating effect, the result of which has seen his team produce a compelling style and brand of football.
As part of City’s celebrations in lifting this season’s Premier League trophy, the club has continued to light up the world.
While their football has shone a bright light on what is possible through an attack-based gameplan, Sunday evening saw the player’s images projected onto significant locations across the globe.
Pictures of the squad were cast onto the side of Manchester town hall, while Guardiola’s image adorned the town hall in his hometown of Santpedor.
Similarly, each first-team player had their image projected onto a significant landmark in their own hometown, encompassing cities and towns across the globe.
Part celebration and part marketing exercise, it was a seamlessly executed project on a huge scale that congratulated a similar level of achievement by the team.
A home season to remember
When Chris Hughton received the fixture list his team were to follow last season, the final three matches in their season would have drawn his full attention.
Successive games against the teams which are currently occupying the top-three spots in the table would provide a daunting finish for a club many were tipping as favourites for instant relegation.
With two of those games still remaining, Brighton still have a very real chance of finishing the season in 9th position and are only 1 point away from 10th-placed Newcastle as things stand.
The key to this has been their home form. Having played their final match at the Amex last Friday, the Seagulls look likely to finish the season with the 8th-best home record in the league this year.
Their away record leaves much to be desired, however, with Brighton currently producing only 11 points and two wins from their 17 matches.
With no pressure on their shoulders, Hughton can take in the Seagulls final two games under far better circumstances that he would have dared dream nine months ago.
Prediction: Manchester City 2-0 Brighton & Hove Albion
Both teams are without a pressing motivation as they go into this fixture which could give provide a light, exhibition feel to proceedings.
Brighton have not won on the road since 4th November and often struggle to score away from home. Guardiola’s side, by contrast, are highly unlikely to go a second consecutive game without scoring and should seal a win from this match.