Seeking a slice of revenge for their FA Cup penalty shootout heartache, Brighton & Hove Albion welcome Manchester United to the Amex Stadium for Thursday’s Premier League showdown.
Roberto De Zerbi’s side put six past Wolverhampton Wanderers in a merciless massacre last time out, while the Red Devils dented Aston Villa’s European ambitions with a 1-0 triumph.
Despite springing a few surprises with his team selection at the weekend, Brighton boss De Zerbi got exactly the reaction he was after following the Seagulls’ midweek defeat to relegation-battling Nottingham Forest, as Wolves travelled home with their tails between their legs.
Danny Welbeck, Deniz Undav and Pascal Gross all netted braces in a sensational display of attacking dominance from the Seagulls, who reverted to type against Julen Lopetegui’s beleaguered side and remain firmly in the continental mix heading into the final straight.
At the time of writing, Brighton are hovering just outside the continental spots in eighth place, but they have as many as three games in hand on some of the teams around them and could surge as high as fifth – above Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool – with positive results in all of them.
The hosts’ recent pattern of winning one then losing one in the Premier League – which has been followed for their last five games – does not bode very well for the more superstitious supporters, but they have only failed to score in one of their last 21 top-flight matches and have seldom been outfought on their own patch.
Indeed, the Seagulls have five wins to their name from seven Premier League home games in 2023 so far – keeping clean sheets in all of those triumphs – and the travelling Red Devils faithful will need no reminding of how their side’s last visit to the Amex unfolded.
All good things must come to an end, and Aston Villa’s sensational run of scoring in every game under Unai Emery ceased to exist at Old Trafford, where Man United gleaned a hard-fought, but deserved, three points on Sunday.
Emiliano Martinez did his best to parry a Marcus Rashford effort away from danger, but the Argentine only succeeded in finding the feet of Bruno Fernandes, who charged in to delicately lift the ball into the back of the net with just a few minutes remaining in the first half.
Having thrown away a two-goal lead to draw with Tottenham Hotspur in midweek, there was no such collapse from Erik ten Hag’s men this time around, as they continue to cling onto fourth spot in the table with a two-point deficit to Newcastle United, who have played a game more.
Securing Champions League qualification via their league position is imperative for Man United given their Europa League disappointment at the hands of Sevilla, and while Ten Hag’s men are normally an unbreakable force at home, it is a different story on the road.
Indeed, the Red Devils have just two wins from seven Premier League away games in 2023 and were torn to shreds in a 4-0 Amex romping last season before also losing 2-1 at home to Brighton in August, and they were pushed all the way by De Zerbi’s crop at Wembley a couple of weeks ago before holding their nerve from 12 yards.
None of Jakub Moder (knee), Tariq Lamptey (knee), Jeremy Sarmiento (ankle) or Adam Lallana (thigh) will be back for the hosts on Thursday night, and De Zerbi has also affirmed that he will not take any unnecessary risks on talented teenage striker Evan Ferguson, who is nursing an ankle concern.
Brighton’s win over Wolves was very nearly the perfect afternoon, but one small blemish was Joel Veltman limping off after 65 minutes, although De Zerbi is hopeful that the Dutchman’s issue will be a minor one.
However, a return to right-back for Gross could be in order if Veltman does not recover in time, while all of Kaoru Mitoma, Alexis Mac Allister, Moises Caicedo and Levi Colwill were named on the bench against Wolves and will expect to force their way back in, but De Zerbi has been handed plenty of selection headaches following last weekend’s drubbing.
As for Man United, there has been little movement in the treatment room of late, with all of Donny van de Beek (knee), Alejandro Garnacho (ankle), Tom Heaton (ankle), Phil Jones (knee), Raphael Varane (ankle) and Lisandro Martinez (foot) missing out once more.
Scott McTominay’s knock is proving difficult to overcome too, and the Scotland international will not be risked for the trip to the Amex, where Ten Hag will likely stick with the effective pairing of Luke Shaw and Victor Lindelof as Harry Maguire remains consigned to the bench.
A recall for Aaron Wan-Bissaka – who kept Mitoma relatively quiet at Wembley – should also be in order, while Jadon Sancho failed to make the most of his start against Villa and may cede his place to Antony too.
Brighton & Hove Albion possible starting lineup:
Steele; Gross, Colwill, Dunk, Estupinan; Caicedo, Mac Allister; March, Enciso, Mitoma; Welbeck
Manchester United possible starting lineup:
De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Shaw, Malacia; Casemiro; Fernandes, Sabitzer, Eriksen, Antony; Rashford