Champions City face Brighton in penultimate thriller

Fresh from lifting their third successive Premier League title, champions Man­chester City travel to the Amex Stadium to face Brighton & Hove Albion today in the penultimate game of the top-flight campaign.

The Citizens secured a 3-1 home victory against the Seagulls in the reverse fixture seven months ago, with Erling Braut Haaland (2) and Kevin De Bruyne on the score­sheet.

While Man. City were celebrat­ing their Premier League corona­tion, there was also a party atmo­sphere at the Amex on Sunday after Brighton secured European football for the first time in their history courtesy of a 3-1 win over basement club Southampton.

A first-half brace from rising star, Evan Ferguson, put the Seagulls in control before Moham­med Elyounoussi pulled one back for the already-relegated Saints just before the hour mark, but Pascal Gross restored the hosts’ two-goal cushion with a strike in the 69th minute.

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Roberto De Zerbi’s men are now guaranteed a top-seven finish, but the Italian has urged his side to claim a solitary point from their fi­nal two fixtures to ensure that they consolidate sixth spot and qualify for next season’s Europa League – a trip to seventh-placed, Aston Villa, who sit three points further back is to come on the final day.

Few would have envisaged Brighton challenging for the Eu­ropean places this season, but they are there on merit having adopted an attractive brand of football un­der De Zerbi, who seems to have already caught the eye of a number of top clubs if reports are to be believed.

Today, the Seagulls will test their mettle against another side known for their aesthetic philos­ophy in Man. City, who have won 10 of the last 11 Premier League meetings between the two sides since the South-coast club secured promotion in 2017.

Brighton have won three of their last four home games, albeit losing 5-1 to Everton during this run, while their only top-flight victory over Man. City also came on home soil, securing a 3-2 comeback win in their final home game of the 2020-21 season thanks to goals from Leandro Trossard, Adam Webster and Dan Burn.

After being handed the Premier League title without kicking a ball courtesy of Arsenal’s 1-0 defeat at Nottingham Forest, the pressure was off Man. City heading into Sunday’s clash with Chelsea, but Pep Guardiola’s side were keen to go out with a bang and celebrate one more victory in front of the Etihad Stadium faithful.

Indeed, an early strike from World Cup winner, Julian Alvarez, was enough for a much-rotated Citizens side to secure a narrow 1-0 win over a toothless Blues outfit in their final home game of the season, before Captain, Ilkay Gundogan, had the honours of lifting the club’s seventh Premier League trophy.

Man. City have put together a remarkable 24-game unbeaten run across all competitions, winning each of their last 12 Premier League games in the process, and having previously trailed Arsenal at the summit for the majority of the season, they now sit seven points clear at the top of the table with a game in hand.

With one trophy in the bag, the Citizens continue to chase down a historic treble, with finals in the FA Cup and Champions League on the horizon, and Guardiola has suggested that glory in the latter competition will ensure that they are “considered as one of the best” to have graced the beautiful game.

In the meantime, City will conclude their Premier League campaign with two away trips to Brighton and Brentford respec­tively, seeking to continue their positive momentum before stepping out on the Wembley turf against rivals, Manchester United, for an FA Cup showdown on June 3, one week before their Champi­ons League final with Inter Milan in Istanbul. —SportsMole

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