Midweek Premier League action caps off with a handsome-looking showdown between Brighton & Hove Albion and Manchester United on Thursday.
Despite resting several influential first-team members on Saturday, Roberto De Zerbi oversaw a scintillating 6-0 romping of Wolverhampton Wanderers at the Amex Stadium.
With an extra-day rest compared to Man United and the privilege of staying at home, the Seagulls should take the field confident of winning what would be a precious three points.
Brighton finished the last round only two points behind seventh-placed Aston Villa. But with three games in hand, they are in a prime position to land a first-ever qualification for European competition.
Revenge will be at the forefront of the hosts’ minds when they lock horns with a Man United side that crashed them out of the FA Cup semi-finals via penalties in April.
United’s cup triumph saw them repay Brighton a favour after going down 2-1 in the reverse fixture at Old Trafford on Erik ten Hag’s touchline debut in the Premier League.
Plenty has changed for the Red Devils since that defeat and for the better, with the Dutchman’s troops inexorably marching towards a third top-four finish in four years.
Inspired by Bruno Fernandes’ first-half winner, Man Utd squeezed past Villa on Sunday and probably removed all doubts regarding the Champions League promotion race.
With fifth-placed Liverpool seven points behind, winning this game in hand would all but seal the visitors’ bid to return to Europe’s most prestigious competition following a season-long absence.
Brighton’s patchy form has seen their last 14 Premier League matches fluctuating between different outcomes (W7, D4, L3) since a pair of victories at the start of the calendar year.
However, they have nothing if not consistent at home, racking up three victories and a draw in their last four league outings at the Amex while averaging 3.5 goals per game.
Such a formidable home form could strengthen the Seagulls’ quest to beat Man United on home turf for the second year running after a crushing 4-0 victory in this corresponding fixture last season.
That result forms part of an evenly-balanced head-to-head record at the Amex, with both sides registering three wins each in their six previous Premier League clashes at this venue.
Keen to tilt the scales in their favour, Brighton can draw inspiration from their impressive midweek form, having clocked three wins in their last four such match-ups in the Premier League (L1).
Player to Watch: Danny Welbeck
Welbeck has thrived in his recent home appearances for Brighton, tallying five goals and one assist in his last six Premier League outings at the Amex.
He has netted the joint-high three top-flight goals against Man United as a former Red Devil player, with only Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha matching his haul.
Ten Hag’s team will have to be at their best to triumph at Brighton on Thursday, particularly amid their ‘Jekyll & Hyde’ performances, depending on the playing ground.
While the aforementioned win over Villa came as further confirmation of Man Utd’s unparalleled dominance at Old Trafford, problems often arrive when they take the road.
Except for a 2-0 victory at relegation-battling Nottingham Forest in mid-April, the Red Devils have picked up just one point in three of their last four Premier League away games (D1, L2).
That run includes a pair of embarrassing defeats to European hopefuls Newcastle United and Liverpool by an aggregate score of 7-0, highlighting the lack of mental fortitude in high-octane matches.
Adding to this sentiment, Ten Hag’s charges have managed just one win on their last 13 top-flight travels to encounter sides from the upper half of the table (D3, L9).
But now could be a perfect time for Man United to turn the corner and start gathering a head of steam ahead of their FA Cup showpiece fixture against Manchester City.
Despite lacking Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez, they have kept a clean sheet seven times in their last ten league contests, which could be a difference-making factor against one of the division’s most exciting frontlines.
Player to Watch: Marcus Rashford
Rashford knows in-depth about overcoming Brighton, having amassed ten personal H2H wins against the Seagulls, nominating himself for our ‘Player to Watch’ section.
As Man United’s most prolific player this season with 16 Premier League goals, the quicksilver forward will be looking to score in back-to-back away league appearances.
He was on the scoresheet when the Red Devils drew 2-2 at Tottenham Hotspur last week.
Brighton boss De Zerbi has a host of injury concerns on his plate.
Jakub Moder, Tariq Lamptey, Adam Lallana, Jeremy Sarmiento and Joel Veltman are not in contention for the matchday squad, while Evan Ferguson’s availability is still in doubt.
Like his Brighton counterpart, Ten Hag cannot call upon his best line-up amid a subsiding injury crisis at Old Trafford.
In addition to Varane and Martinez, Man Utd will be without Alejandro Garnacho, Donny van de Beek, Phil Jones and Scott McTominay.
Brighton & Hove Albion potential starting line-up:
(4-2-3-1): Jason Steele; Pascal Gross, Levi Colwill, Lewis Dunk, Pervis Estupinan; Moises Caicedo, Alexis Mac Allister; Solly March, Julio Enciso, Kaoru Mitoma; Danny Welbeck.
Manchester United potential starting line-up:
(4-2-3-1): David de Gea; Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Victor Lindelof, Luke Shaw, Tyrell Malacia; Casemiro, Marcel Sabitzer; Bruno Fernandes, Christian Eriksen, Antony; Marcus Rashford.
We Say: Brighton & Hove Albion 2-2 Manchester United
After a closely-contested FA Cup semi-final, another share of the spoils could be in store on Thursday, with one crucial difference.
Goals were in short supply when they met at Wembley Stadium last month, but that’s likely to change, at least based on both teams’ recent results in the Premier League.
Man Utd wasted a 2-0 half-time lead at Tottenham on their most recent league travel, meaning each of their last six away matches in the top flight has seen at least one side net a minimum of two goals.
Given the circumstances, a point at Brighton may not necessarily be a bad result for the Red Devils, although there’s no doubt they’ll be gunning for a win.
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