It’s the second game of a massive month for Manchester City and it’s already the second competition in just a few days. Brighton are the next side to look to crush the blues’ hopes of winning the quadruple, and should not be underestimated by Pep Guardiola’s men. The FA Cup has proven to be a difficult trophy to win over the past decade or so, with the last success coming in 2011.
Pep Guardiola has repeatedly taken this competition very seriously despite his side getting favourable draws throughout this season’s tournament. Ahead of the trip to Wembley, we spoke to Scott from WeAreBrighton.com to views from an opposition point of view ahead of this huge tie in the capital.
Thanks for joining us Scott. It was a relatively comfortable run to the latter stages of this year’s FA Cup for Brighton up until the quarter-final where Millwall severely threatened your hopes of reaching Wembley. How would you assess your performances in the cup this season?
We’ve been helped by a kind draw, but this FA Cup has undoubtedly been the highlight of the second-half of the season. Whilst the media will tell you nobody cares about the competition anymore, we’ve sold out the Amex Stadium against West Bromwich Albion and Derby County as well as our away allocations at Bournemouth and Millwall. There’s just something about the competition that Albion fans seem to love as other clubs turn away from it. Unforgettable days like the Quarter-Final at the Den obviously help. That match condensed what it is to be a Brighton supporter into 120 minutes. Largely disappointing, potentially embarrassing and then a couple of moments of sheer, excruciating joy.
In the league, Brighton are in a very promising position when it comes to survival. Is this the position you would’ve hoped to have been in at the start of the campaign – 15th place in the Premier League and an FA Cup Semi-Final?
It’s been a bit of a funny season really. At the start of the campaign, most Brighton fans would’ve bitten your arm off to be five points clear of the drop zone with a month to go as survival was always the aim of the game. The reality of the situation though is that we’ve been dreadful in 2019, winning just two league games since the turn of the year when we were 12 points clear of relegation, which has led to some supporters to call for Chris Hughton to go. Obviously, they are a vocal minority who maybe smoke the crack pipe a little too much but our form is something of a concern. The first-half of the campaign should keep us up and we’ve got a day out at Wembley to look forward to, but it will be a big summer at the Amex in terms of improving the squad and pushing onto the next level. If we start next season as we’re finishing the current campaign, then we might be in a world of problems.
Chris Hughton’s men go into this one off the back of a 3-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge while City strolled to victory against a poor Cardiff City side. How are you anticipating this clash will go?
The scoreline from that Chelsea game is slightly misleading as Eden Hazard and Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s goals were two of the sweetest strikes you’ll see. We defended resolutely but were a non-entity as an attacking force, managing just one shot on target. I think we can expect exactly the same at Wembley; nine or 10 men behind the ball and hope that we can take advantage of the very limited chances that might come our way.
Who should Manchester City be looking out for in this fixture and why?
Maty Ryan in the Albion goal is probably going to have to have the game of his life if we are to progress, but he’s more than capable of that as on his day he is one of best shot stoppers in the Premier League. Another player to look out for is Yves Bissouma. We paid £15m for him in the summer and given the glimpses of potential that we’ve seen from him, that already looks like it could prove to be shrewd business. He’s only 22 and he is far from the finished article as his careless surrendering of possession which gifted Southampton their winner last Saturday showed, but he is fearless, a real talent and exciting to watch.
Where do you feel the main battle could take place on the pitch?
Given the ridiculous array of attacking talent that City have, it’ll be between your forwards and our defence. Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy have both been absolutely outstanding again this season and if any of the bigger Premier League clubs have any sense, then they should be taking a serious look this summer. They’ll block, tackle and head anything – and I suspect they’ll be having to do a lot more of that than normal this week.
Whether it is Manchester City or Brighton who progresses to the FA Cup Final on Saturday evening, do you expect that side to go on to win the competition?
If it’s City, yes. If it’s us, no. Wolves should have too much for us in the unlikely event we make the final and we haven’t managed to put a goal past Watford in 180 minutes this season. Plus, it would be a very Brighton thing to do to beat the best team in the world in the semi-final, only to go and lose to Watford in the final.
Brighton Starting XI prediction and score prediction?
Ryan in goal; a back four of Martin Montoya, Dunk, Duffy, Bernardo; Alireza Jahanbakhsh, Davy Propper, Dale Stephens, Bissouma, and Anthony Knockaert in midfield and Glenn Murray up front.
Personally, I’d prefer to see Florin Andone in place of Murray as a 35-year-old who makes an Eddie Stobart lorry going uphill with the handbrake on look quick, isn’t really what you want when playing on the counter. But Hughton very rarely springs surprises so it’s hard to see anything but the normal line-up.
As for a prediction, City have won by two goals in every game we’ve played without ever really needing to get out of second gear. 2-0 to City.
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