Brighton will face their biggest test of the season so far whenthey travel to the home of Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City.
The Seagulls find themselves amidst somewhat of a rough patch ahead of Saturday’s trip to the North- West, with a first win under new manager Roberto De Zerbi still elusive. In their last match, the south coast side could only manage a draw against a struggling Nottingham Forest, throwing away a host of chances in what proved to be a frustrating evening at the Amex. Alongside this, the Albion have failed to win a league game for just under two months, with their last victory coming over Leicester City in what would prove to be Graham Potter’s last game as Brighton manager. Worryingly for supporters of the south coast side, it appears Brighton’s poor run of form has coincided with their inability to convert. The Seagulls have failed to score in their last three league games, a factor which last occurred just over six months ago.
However, there are still some positives for Brighton. Despite their recent form, the Seagulls still sit in the top half of the table with a respectable tally of 15 points, just one point behind their tally at the same stage last season. Alongside this, Brighton’s performance away to Liverpool earlier this month highlighted that they are still a side capable of causing an upset, particularly away from home. Therefore, whilst Saturday’s encounter does appear to be a challenge for the Seagulls, it would be a great mistake to write Brighton off before a ball is kicked.
Although those associated with the Albion may feel somewhat apprehensive ahead of their side’s trip to the Etihad, there is great reason for supporters to be encouraged by the form of Leandro Trossard. The Belgian winger is currently Brighton’s top scorer for the season, striking home five times in ten league appearances for the Albion. Encouragingly for supporters of the Seagulls, Trossard has already highlighted his ability to perform against the so called ‘big six’, having scored a hat- trick at Anfield three weeks ago. Alongside this, Trossard has already proven his ability to deliver against Saturday’s opponents. The 27- year- old scored the first of three goals in Brighton’s last victory over Manchester City, a 3-2 victory at the Amex in May 2021. Therefore, if Brighton are to cause an upset at the Etihad, it appears vital that Trossard is on the team sheet once again.
With regards to team selection, it appears as though Kaoru Mitoma will be unavailable for the Albion. The Japanese winger picked up an ankle injury in Brighton’s 2-0 defeat away to Brentford last week, an injury which ruled him out of Brighton’s clash with Nottingham Forest on Tuesday. Speaking after his side’s midweek encounter with Forest, Brighton boss Roberto De Zerbi said that "There is a problem. I think he [Mitoma] can come back in 10-15 days. I think after that he can play with Brighton and after that will be the World Cup."
Whilst the injury does appear to be short term, supporters of the Seagulls will understandably be disappointed by Mitoma’s absence, given the 25- year- olds impressive start to the campaign.
Saturday’s hosts Manchester City have started the season in sublime fashion, earning 23 points out of a possible 30 as they look to reclaim their Premier League crown. Alongside this, the title holders have scored more times than anyone else so far this season, striking home 33 times in 10 matches. However, in their last match, the Citizens suffered their first league defeat of the season, falling to a 1-0 defeat at Anfield last Sunday.
Whilst the defeat appears damaging to Manchester City’s title charge, it must be acknowledged that Pep Guardiola’s side have recovered from similar positions in the past, in addition to bouncing back after damaging defeats with resounding home victories. Alongside this, the Citizens have won every game at home this season in all competitions, meaning that, whilst the threat posed by Brighton is strong, there is still a strong sense that Manchester City remain the favourites for Saturday’s encounter.
Despite the fact that there have been several key figures in Manchester City’s starting eleven this season, it is evident which player has earnt a vast majority of the plaudits. Norwegian forward Erling Haaland has made arguably the greatest start to a Premier League campaign by any player, scoring 15 goals in just 10 league appearances for the Citizens. Alongside this, Haaland appears to be breaking records with every kick of a ball, having recently broke the record for quickest time taken to score three Premier League hat-tricks, completing the impressive feat in just 8 games. However, it has already been proven on two occasions this season that Haaland can be stopped.
The 22- year- old has failed to score in two league matches this season, blanking against Bournemouth and Liverpool respectively. Worryingly for Manchester City fans, the 1-0 defeat to Liverpool last weekend was the first time this season that Haaland has failed to contribute to a goal, having managed an assist against Bournemouth in August. Therefore, although Haaland has enjoyed an impressive start to the season, there is still a possibility that he could be stopped once more when the Seagulls visit on Saturday.
With regards to team selection, Pep Guardiola will be aware of the fact that he is still unable to call on Kyle Walker. The 32- year- old was forced off in his side’s clash with Manchester United earlier this month, having picked up a groin injury in the first half of the encounter. Speaking on his eventual return, Walker stated that "I'm feeling better than I expected. Due to the current circumstances, my first thought now is getting back for England, that's the main target that I've got, to get to the World Cup. Hopefully, if I make that, we'll see. But after that, I'm fully focused on Manchester City." However, given the extent of Walker’s injury, it appears highly unlikely that the England International will be able to feature at the Etihad this weekend.
Whilst a vast majority of supporters may already view Manchester City as the favourites for Saturday’s clash, it would be a great mistake to write off Brighton’s chances before a ball has been kicked. The Seagulls have earnt themselves a reputation of causing upsets against so called ‘big six’ sides, including their recent result away to last season’s FA Cup winners Liverpool. Admittedly, the Albion are presented with a difficult task. The south coast side have never won away to Manchester City, having won just 6 of their 18 encounters with the Citizens. However, the club is amidst the start of a new era. Roberto De Zerbi’s first win as Brighton manager has to come eventually; should it come on Saturday, it would be one hell of a statement.