Manchester City’s form line will make for hard reading for Brighton fans.
Pep Guadiola’s side have won 22 from their last 23 games, their sole defeat in that stretch coming at St James’ Park at the tail end of January.
They’ve averaged over 2.5 goals scored per game in their last ten, and 3.6 in their last five, all of which they’ve won.
However the majority of these goals and wins have come in both the Premier League and the Champions League.
Typically this would further frank the form that the bare numbers indicate. Their 10-2 aggregate thrashing of Shalke 04 a stand out in that sequence.
However their last appearance in the FA Cup certainly left some questions.
Swansea were disposed of in the quarter-finals, but not in the fashion many would have expected.
City started with peripheral players such as Fabian Delph, Nicolas Otamendi, and Riyad Mahrez. Not a bad second string obviously.
They were, however, disjointed. Having fallen 2-0 down in the first half, a late rally rescued City and they progressed with a 3-2 win.
For Brighton, expectations in this competition have probably dropped considerably since drawing the Premier League champions.
Their form contrasts strongly with that of City.
Chris Hughton’s men have lost four of the last ten, including back-to-back defeats in their last two games.
To compound the sense of struggle, Brighton drew blanks on both occasions.
Much like their opposition in this semi-final, they underwhelmed in the previous round.
Millwall thought they were on the way to a famous victory at The Den when they went 2-0 with ten minutes to spare.
Brighton are nothing if not obdurate. They scrambled to bring the game to penalties where they eventually dispatched their Championship opponents.
— The Emirates FA Cup (@EmiratesFACup) April 4, 2019
There’s a few things we can expect to happen.
The first is that City will rest a number of their leading players. Considering they are still fighting on three fronts, and chasing a famous quadruple, we can expect players to rotate consistently over the next eight weeks.
Another thing we can expect is for Brighton to defend deep, and surrender possession.
Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy are often relied on to perform weekly heroics in their 18 yard box, and they often deliver.
Beyond City spending the majority of the game probing Brighton’s defence, they’ll have to be wary of set-piece danger.
Duffy in particular is an arial-assault artist. He’s an expert in fouling his marker without being called on it, and he’s fairly useful once he gets on the end of a delivery.
City and Brighton don’t have a storied history or rivalry. In terms of head to heads, City did the double over Brighton last year, and beat them in the first meeting between the two sides earlier this season.
In all three games City won by two goals. They drew 2-2 in the League Cup in 2008, you have to go back to 1989 to find the next game between them.
Man City should win this game, and a first half goal would almost end the game there and then. Were the goal to go the other way or Brighton were to hold out throughout the first half, it could be a messy and stressful day for City and their ‘domestic cup team’.
Oleksander Zinchenko will definitely miss out for City owing to a hamstring complaint. Sergio Aguero’s fitness is a concern. The Argentinian was likely to make way for Gabriel Jesus in any case, Guardiola says he will travel with the squad to Wembley and could feature.
Brighton are waiting to hear back on the fitness of Solly March, as they are for both Leon Balogun and Pascal Gross. The latter pair missed their recent defeat to Chelsea.
While Brighton might lack the cutting edge to concern City overly, they don’t lack an ability to keep the score down.
It being an FA Cup semi-final in Wembley may only serve to heighten tension and tighten up the game further.
Two recommended bets on City to win the game with overs/unders:
Manchester City to Win with Under 3.5 Goals at 10/11
Manchester City to Win with Under 2.5 Goals at 11/5