- Adam Howarth
Preview: Everything you need to know, Predicted XI – Brighton vs Manchester City
Having sealed and celebrated a third successive Premier League title, Manchester City look forward to closing out the season with two huge finals in the FA Cup and Champions League as their hunt for a historic treble continues.
But first, the Blues must face their remaining two league matches, starting with a tough trip to the south coast to take on Roberto de Zerbi’s high-flying Brighton & Hove Albion.
Kick-off at the Amex Stadium takes place at 20:00 (BST) on Wednesday, 24 May, with the game chosen for coverage on Sky Sports in the UK.
City finally got their hands on the Premier League trophy again on Sunday after a 1-0 win over Chelsea at the Etihad Stadium.
A Julian Alvarez goal was the winner on a joyous day in east Manchester, where Pep Guardiola selected an interesting team.
With the title wrapped up, the Catalan faces a dilemma: with two finals to come, his key players will need to keep playing to build rhythm and maintain the confidence which saw them secure the title so quickly.
However, Guardiola will also not want those players picking up unnecessary injuries in ultimately meaningless matches.
As seen by his team selection at the weekend, he may also see these remaining matches as opportunities for the squad’s more rotational players to get minutes to make an impression.
Fielding weaker sides at this stage won’t affect the title race anymore, but poor performances or results could have an impact on the bigger picture with those finals on the horizon.
Guardiola perhaps selected such a weak side, including the likes of Kalvin Phillips, Sergio Gomez and Cole Palmer, as that came just days after a monumental win over Real Madrid.
Now his main men are rested, a stronger team can be expected here.
Nathan Ake, however, is unlikely to play a part after his manager said in the pre-match press conference:
"[He is] getting better. I don't know for tomorrow or Brentford but is at the last stage. His second injury, we have to be careful."
Ortega; Lewis, Stones, Dias, Laporte; Rodri, Gundogan; Mahrez, Alvarez, Haaland, Foden
Brighton have enjoyed the best season of their entire history in the 2022-23 campaign, as the club secured European football last week.
With two games remaining, they sit in sixth place in the Premier League, five points behind Liverpool and three clear of their final-day opponents Aston Villa, meaning Europa League football is almost guaranteed.
Despite losing key players such as Yves Bissouma and Marc Cucurella in the summer and eventually, their manager Graham Potter, who had established the Seagulls as a top-flight side, they have simply gone from strength to strength this year.
An incredibly well ran club, Albion have become known for unearthing hidden gems and finding star replacements from nowhere.
Such was the case when Potter left for Chelsea; he had done a fantastic job in East Sussex, but his successor Roberto de Zerbi has led the club to new heights.
Playing free-flowing football, of which even Guardiola is a huge fan, the Italian has guided his side to Europe as the league’s surprise package and arguably its most attractive side.
Alexis Mac Allister, Moises Caicedo and Lewis Dunk have starred for the Seagulls again this term, yet the emergence of Kaoru Mitoma, Julio Enciso and Evan Ferguson has been huge in their rise to Europe.
On the injury front for Brighton, Solly March, Jakub Moder, Adam Lallana, Tariq Lamptey, and Jeremy Sarmiento remain unavailable, while Adam Webster and Robert Sanchez are doubtful.
Since Brighton’s 2017 promotion to the Premier League, City have faced them 12 times, winning 11.
The one occasion where City didn’t come out victorious came in an almost identical situation to this week’s match.
In 2021, the Blues had secured the league title, had a European final on the horizon and faced the Seagulls at the Amex with two games to go. Despite going two goals up early in the second half, a Joao Cancelo red card proved costly as the hosts staged a late comeback to earn a historic win.
Since then, however, Pep Guardiola has led his side to three straight wins, one in a 4-1 win at the Amex last season and two at the Etihad, most recently in October, where Erling Haaland netted twice.
Meanwhile, in the club’s current top-flight spell, only three players have scored against Brighton more than Phil Foden (5).
Referee: Simon Hooper
Assistants: Adrian Holmes, Nick Hopton
Fourth official: Graham Scott
VAR: Chris Kavanagh
Assistant VAR: Gary Beswick
Written by: @AdamHowarthSJ
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