The term ‘baptism of fire’ is often overused in football, but it can certainly be applied to Brighton’s Premier League debut at The Amex Stadium this weekend.
The Seagulls will entertain Pep Guardiola’s mighty Manchester City in Saturday’s evening kick-off, with a number of new players on show and both sides looking to begin the new season with three points.
So who will star on the South coast, and which team will ultimately prevail?
The Seagulls enjoyed a largely positive pre-season on the pitch, winning their first three friendlies while achieving a 6-0 win against League Two Crawley Town. They also performed brightly during a 3-2 defeat against Atletico Madrid in their final pre-season game, while new signing Pascal Gross excelled by scoring three times during the summer. Solly March and Tomer Hemed also looked particularly sharp as pre-season wore on, which bodes well for the clash with City.
While the Citizens started their pre-season tour of the U.S. with a disappointing 2-0 defeat to city neighbours Manchester United, they won their three subsequent games and scored 10 goals in the process. The talented Belgian playmaker Kevin de Bruyne produced a string of dazzling performances, while Raheem Sterling also excelled with two well taken goals. They should therefore hit the ground running this season, which ominous news for the Premier League and their nearest rivals.
Brighton have a largely fully-fit squad to choose from, although midfielder Beram Kayal is sidelined for 12 weeks with a fractured fibula and Sam Baldock will miss the game with a calf injury. Former Valencia goalkeeper Mat Ryan will make his League debut in goal for the Seagulls, with fellow arrivals Pascal Gross and Davy Propper likely to start in midfield. Gross could well play in an advanced role behind the in-form Tomer Hemed, while Solly March will look to start on the left after some excellent pre-season displays.
City will be without the £52 million left-back Benjamin Mendy, who is laid low with a thigh injury. The Blues are otherwise at full strength, so Brazilian Danilo (who usually operates as a right-back) will make his debut on the left with Kyle Walker on the opposite side. Guardiola is expected to deploy the 3-5-2 system that featured for much of pre-season, with Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus partnered in attack. Yaya Toure is likely to play in front of the back three, with David Silva partnering Kevin de Bruyne further forward.
Match Prediction: Brighton & Hove Albion 0-3 Manchester City
With City nearly at full-strength and having enjoyed an excellent end to their pre-season, they should have too much for newly-promoted Brighton. Although we expect the Seagulls to be competitive and pose a threat in the wide areas against City’s wing-backs, the Manchester club’s quality will ultimately shine through.