Fresh from lifting their third successive Premier League title, champions Manchester City travel to the Amex Stadium to face Brighton & Hove Albion in the penultimate game of the top-flight campaign.
The Citizens secured a 3-1 home victory against the Seagulls in the reverse fixture seven months ago, with Erling Braut Haaland (2) and Kevin De Bruyne on the scoresheet.
While Man City were celebrating their Premier League coronation, there was also a party atmosphere at the Amex on Sunday after Brighton secured European football for the first time in their history courtesy of a 3-1 win over basement club Southampton.
A first-half brace from rising star Evan Ferguson put the Seagulls in control before Mohammed Elyounoussi pulled one back for the already-relegated Saints just before the hour mark, but Pascal Gross restored the hosts’ two-goal cushion with a strike in the 69th minute.
Roberto De Zerbi’s men are now guaranteed a top-seven finish, but the Italian has urged his side to claim a solitary point from their final two fixtures to ensure that they consolidate sixth spot and qualify for next season’s Europa League – a trip to seventh-placed Aston Villa who sit three points further back is to come on the final day.
Few would have envisaged Brighton challenging for the European places this season, but they are there on merit having adopted an attractive brand of football under De Zerbi, who has been described by Pep Guardiola as ‘one of the most influential managers in the last 20 years’ and seems to have already caught the eye of a number of top clubs if reports are to be believed.
On Wednesday, the Seagulls will test their mettle against another side known for their aesthetic philosophy in Man City, who have won 10 of the last 11 Premier League meetings between the two sides since the South-coast club secured promotion in 2017.
Brighton have won three of their last four home games, albeit losing 5-1 to Everton during this run, while their only top-flight victory over Man City also came on home soil, securing a 3-2 comeback win in their final home game of the 2020-21 season thanks to goals from Leandro Trossard, Adam Webster and Dan Burn.
After being handed the Premier League title without kicking a ball courtesy of Arsenal’s 1-0 defeat at Nottingham Forest, the pressure was off Man City heading into Sunday’s clash with Chelsea, but Pep Guardiola’s side were keen to go out with a bang and celebrate one more victory in front of the Etihad Stadium faithful.
Indeed, an early strike from World Cup winner Julian Alvarez was enough for a much-rotated Citizens side to secure a narrow 1-0 win over a toothless Blues outfit in their final home game of the season, before captain Ilkay Gundogan had the honours of lifting the club’s seventh Premier League trophy.
Man City have put together a remarkable 24-game unbeaten run across all competitions, winning each of their last 12 Premier League games in the process, and having previously trailed Arsenal at the summit for the majority of the season, they now sit seven points clear at the top of the table with a game in hand.
With one trophy in the bag, the Citizens continue to chase down a historic treble, with finals in the FA Cup and Champions League on the horizon, and Guardiola has suggested that glory in the latter competition will ensure that they are “considered as one of the best” to have graced the beautiful game.
In the meantime, City will conclude their Premier League campaign with two away trips to Brighton and Brentford respectively, seeking to continue their positive momentum before stepping out on the Wembley turf against rivals Manchester United for an FA Cup showdown on June 3, one week before their Champions League final with Inter Milan in Istanbul.
Man City head to the Amex having scored 33 goals in 11 top-flight meetings against Brighton and have never failed to make the net ripple during this run, while they have also won each of their last 25 Premier League matches played on a Wednesday by an aggregate score of 68-11; the longest winning run by any team on a specific day in the division’s history.
Brighton will be without the services of Solly March, Adam Lallana (both hamstring), Tariq Lamptey, Jakub Moder (both knee) and Jeremy Sarmiento (ankle) due to injury, while Adam Webster is fit to return to the matchday squad but will begin as a substitute after recovering from a muscle problem.
Goalkeeper Robert Sanchez has sat out of the last three games having mutually agreed to remain at home, and he will miss out again on Wednesday with Jason Steele to continue between the sticks.
With De Zerbi keen to claim at least one more point to guarantee Europa League football for next season, a strong side is expected to be named, although the Seagulls boss will consider freshening up his team in a few positions.
Despite scoring a brace against Southampton, Ferguson may be replaced by Danny Welbeck having only recently returned from injury, and the same applies to defender Joel Veltman which could see one of Gross or Moises Caicedo slot in at right-back either from the start or midway through the game.
As for Man City, Guardiola made nine changes to his starting lineup on Sunday after being crowned champions a day earlier, but the Catalan boss is expected to recall a number of his first-team regulars on Wednesday to maintain their match fitness.
The Citizens’ only injury concern is still with Nathan Ake, and although the defender is edging closer to making a comeback from a hamstring problem, Guardiola does not intend to risk him ahead of two huge finals next month.
Goalkeeper Ederson and defenders Ruben Dias and John Stones are in contention to return at the back, while midfield trio Rodri, Gundogan and De Bruyne could also be recalled at the expense of Kalvin Phillips, Cole Palmer and Phil Foden.
Premier League top scorer Haaland may be selected to start down the middle ahead of Alvarez, while Jack Grealish, Bernardo Silva and Riyad Mahrez are all set to battle for a place on the flanks.
Brighton & Hove Albion possible starting lineup:
Steele; Veltman, Dunk, Colwill, Estupinan; Gross, Caicedo; Buonanotte, Mac Allister, Mitoma; Welbeck
Manchester City possible starting lineup:
Ederson; Walker, Dias, Laporte; Stones, Rodri; Mahrez, De Bruyne, Gundogan, Grealish; Haaland