Manchester City take on Brighton & Hove Albion in the FA Cup semi-finals, aiming to take a significant step towards the unprecedented quadruple.
Unlike last season when they were tipped to complete for a quadruple before failing to do so, Manchester City are very much in the hunt for four trophies across as many competitions. While the League Cup is already won, Pep Guardiola’s men are firmly placed in the Premier League title race, have a quarter-final clash against Spurs to look forward to in the Champions League, and are a step away from the FA Cup final, as they face Brighton in the penultimate stage.
While City are heavy favourites to prevail against the Seagulls, they will know that the best of sides can be left surprised in a cup competition, having been heavily damaged by Swansea City in the previous round. Guardiola & co. have already experienced an upset when Wigan Athletic ousted them from the FA Cup last season. Hence, the manager would want total focus from his players and a commitment to winning the competition.
Brighton, like Manchester City, also faced a major scare to their chances in the competition as Millwall almost defeated them. The Londoners had led by 2-0 until the 88th minute, only for a late strike and an injury-time equaliser to take the game to penalties, where Brighton won.
Chris Hughton will be hoping to make history with the side, with the Seagulls hoping to win their first ever FA Cup. Although the task in front of Hughton and his charges is not an easy one by any means – the mountain that is Manchester City would surely be a steep climb – the manager would hope his players give everything on the pitch to try and beat City.
Team News & Tactics
Sergio Aguero has travelled with the Manchester City squad after there were fears of him missing out due to the hamstring injury that kept him out of the win over Cardiff City. Guardiola will take a late decision on Aguero’s involvement, considering the Champions League quarter-final first leg tie against Tottenham is on the horizon, meaning Gabriel Jesus will retain his place.
Oleksandr Zinchenko was also injured in the last game, and his absence could pose a significant problem for Guardiola and his defence. Replacing the Ukrainian could be tricky for the Manchester City boss, although he still has Danilo as a viable option. The Brazilian will have to play out of position, which he has done before.
Guardiola, in general, will have a firm eye placed on the midweek European clash and that could prompt some changes. The Manchester City manager would especially like to rest key stars such as Aymeric Laporte, Raheem Sterling and Kevin de Bruyme, meaning there should be shuffles across the park.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Kompany, Otamendi, Danilo; David Silva, Gundogan, Foden; Bernardo Silva, Jesus, Sane
Brighton & Hove Albion
Chris Hughton also comes into this game with his share of problems. The primary concern would be the fitness of Jurgen Locadia and Solly March, who scored the goals against Millwall. The duo were taken off with calf problems against Chelsea last time around. Pascal Gross is also likely to miss out, although he is on the road to fitness after his recent injury problems.
Considering Locadia and March recover from their respective issues, Hughton will look to name a similar squad that has been showed an upturn in form in recent games, although it does look like the Brighton boss will make some significant changes.
Martin Montoya, Shane Duffy, Lewis Dunk and Bernardo are all set to form the defence while Davy Propper, Dale Stephens and Yves Bissouma will be a part of the midfield trident. Upfront, Glenn Murray is set to get a start and supporting him could be Alireza Jahanbaksh and Anthony Knockaert.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Ryan; Montoya, Duffy, Dunk, Bernardo; Propper, Stephens, Bissouma; Jahanbakhsh, Murray, Knockaert
- This will be the first meeting between Brighton and Manchester City in the FA Cup since January 1983, when the Seagulls won a fourth-round tie en route to their only previous appearance in a FA Cup final.
- Brighton have only won one of their last 11 matches against Manchester City in all competitions (D3 L7), a 2-1 victory back in April 1989 in a second-tier clash.
- Manchester City have progressed from 10 of their previous 13 FA Cup semi-final appearances, including eight of the last nine. The Citizens have never lost back-to-back semi-finals in the competition.
- Brighton are winless in their four previous matches at Wembley.
- Manchester City have scored more FA Cup goals in 2018-19 than any other side (19)
Player to Watch
The Manchester City record signing has failed to live up to his reputation as a big-name player this season. The Algerian has definitely shown flashes of brilliance and made significant contributions during the season, but has overall been below the standard quality for a Pep Guardiola side. He does have a chance to impress the manager when he might be afforded an appearance against Brighton.
City might be cruising towards a quadruple, but playing so many games could take a toll on the players. This is the opportunity for players like Mahrez and others who have been on the fringes to show their worth and take their chances when offered one. Guardiola will personally be hoping Mahrez performs well in the absence of many essential stars, starting against Brighton.
Manchester City 2-0 Brighton & Hove Albion
Manchester City’s rampant nature of scoring tons of goals has taken a back seat lately. The FA Cup hopefuls have adopted an attack first policy, which has seen them score early and defend a significant lead. Their confidence will also play a huge role in this game, and all the facts point towards the Premier League champions reaching their second final of the season.
Brighton, on the other hand, will be fighting tooth and nail to have a great shot at winning the FA Cup for the first time in the club’s history. But Manchester City are a different force to be reckoned with, and the quadruple chasers are overwhelming favourites to win this semi-final. The Hard Tackle predicts a 2-0 win for Pep Guardiola & co.