Why not? Those indirect ones for backpasses rarely come to much as it is.
37 min: Dunk chests a dangerous Foden cross away. We’re now firmly in attack v defence territory after that fairly positive Brighton start.
36 min: “Sometimes handling a backpass is the best option, when the other is making a terrible hack at it and potentially missing it completely, leaving it to roll into the net for an OG,” suggests Graeme Thorn. True, though you’d want to back yourself to smack it away.
In the meantime, Bernardo (the Brighton one) is very alert at the back post to sweep a De Bruyne cross behind. A sniffing centre-forward might have converted that! The pressure is mounting from City though and a couple more corners come to little.
34 min: City win a couple of corners but, as they look to change the angle with the second one, Rodri is flagged offside.
32 min: Webster repels another De Bruyne shot with his head after extensive probing from City. Brighton then try to break but it comes to nothing. The visitors’ defensive shape remains very sound.
30 min: It takes fully two minutes to set the free-kick up and make sure the wall are behaving. Then De Bruyne has a blast and, lo, it’s blocked bravely by Mac Allister.
28 min: Danger here – and a rarity – City have an indirect free-kick in the box after Webster stretches to knock a through pass back Sanchez and the keeper picks it up. Ooops. Can City take advantage? It’s about 12 yards out and to the left of centre …
27 min: Now Mahrez drifts onto a slick, lofted De Bruyne pass but can’t get decent purchase on his attempted volley. City aren’t finding much of a way through just yet. At the other end Dias has to divert a Tau cutback away after the forward burns past Zinchenko.
24 min: Mahrez teases in a delightful ball from the right, almost undefendable really, and Gundogan nudges it back across goal but Veltman is able to hack away.
22 min: “Wait, that guy’s surname is Mac Allister? Is his first name G. Ary?” queries Drew of the lively young Argentinian.
20 min: City win the game’s first corner, but nothing results.
19 min: Good moment from Brighton, with Mac Allister – impressive so far – feeding the scampering Trossard, who enters the box and looks to fade one into the far corner. It’s a yard or so wide, but Ederson was troubled enough to dive.
17 min: That was evidence that City can, and doubtless will again, carve Brighton open but they’re yet to play with any sustained tempo.
14 min: Big chance for City there, though, as a lovely swerve from Gundogan gives him space to play De Bruyne in. De Bruyne is about eight yards out and tries to place the ball past Sanchez, but the big keeper stands up really well and blocks with a leg.
13 min: Brighton break well again, and Trossard bamboozles Stones before dinking a cross over from the left. It’s above everyone and then Veltman, running in late at an angle, lashes wildly off target. But the visitors have started well.
12 min: Trossard is back on after taking treatment for a mild knock. Then Mac Allister does well and gets Brighton up the pitch from his own half, which they’ve managed to do a few times so far.
11 min: “Brighton’s Graham Potter has got the look of a bass player in an indie rock band,” writes Peter Oh. Every time I see him I picture him with a four-string slung around his shoulder, laying down a fat groove to a catchy mid-tempo tune. Pep Guardiola strikes me as the moody front man, grasping the mic with white-knuckled intensity as he howls revolutionary lyrics about possession.
9 min: Frustration for Brighton, as a simple flick on halfway sends Propper into acres of space in the City half and with home defenders outnumbered. It’s a good position but he wastes the final ball, which is aimed tamely towards the box and cleared.
7 min: Zinchenko has a first-time shot blocked after Foden nods a ball back from the byline – that’s the first real moment of danger from either side.
6 min: Not much happening yet, in truth. Brighton look composed enough on the ball and are trying to play through the thirds, albeit to little avail. And it’s a similar story for City really.
4 min: City pass, pass, pass for a minute or so but then Gundogan can’t tame a Silva ball and runs it out beyond the byline.
2 min: Brighton try to make some early inroads via Tau on the right, but he’s snuffed out. Good number of players committed forward there though.
Peeeeeep! Away we go!
Brighton kick us off, shooting right to left. Contrary to my effort below, I think they’ll play with something we might call a 3-4-2-1. Mac Allister, Trossard and Tau will be the three more attacking players.
“Why is it that only 9s can be false?” asks a philosophical Phil Grey. “Couldn’t the defender on the right of a back 3 be considered a false 2, or an attack-minded right back a false 7, or a very defensive DM who slips into the back four a false 5?”
That’s one for Jonathan Wilson, I’m not touching that. Although it reminds me of the time I suggested to Arsène Wenger in all seriousness that Santi Cazorla was an “eight and a half” and he laughed in the mistaken impression I was making some sort of football positions-based joke.
The teams are coming out onto the pitch. Let’s see what they offer us today. Brighton are well coached and even with this makeshift team I can’t see them getting a thrashing, but it does feel like a pretty regulation 2-0 to City on the face of things.
Potter, who gives little away to the media, describes a “challenging” recent period. Brighton’s last league win was on 21 November at Villa.
Guardiola has always been very nice about Graham Potter and Brighton. I remember him falling over himself to praise them after last season’s fixture, which I covered at the Etihad. It did feel a bit much at the time given City had won 4-0, a bit like when Pep pronounces himself delighted with hefty defeats and so forth. But Brighton do play good, structured stuff. They just lack devilment in the final third and I don’t really know where it’ll come from today.
City fans: confident you’re over the hump and in this title race for the long haul? It was interesting to see Guardiola say their improvement owes in part to running *less* – not always what we hear in these days of hell-for-leather pressing.
Look away now, blue half of Manchester – this is how Marcus Christenson rates Man United’s title hopefuls against their decorated predecessors:
The self-isolating Sergio Aguero is among those absent for City, although Raheem Sterling is back on the bench. Looks like Pep Guardiola is going essentially strikerless to begin with …
So are Brighton, by the looks of it, although it’s hard to tell exactly how they will line up. It’s a pretty defensive-looking side from Graham Potter and they miss Yves Bissouma, their influential midfielder, through suspension. Percy Tau, back from his loan at Anderlecht, may be the most advanced member of Brighton’s team – this will be the South African’s first start for Brighton, two and a half years after he signed.
Manchester City: Ederson; Cancelo, Dias, Stones, Zinchenko; Rodrigo, Gundogan; De Bruyne, Mahrez, Foden; Bernardo. Subs: Steffen, Walker, Sterling, Jesus, Torres, Mendy, Fernandinho, Harwood-Bellis, Mbete.
Brighton: Sanchez; Veltman, Webster, Dunk, Burn; Trossard, White, Propper, Bernardo; Mac Allister; Tau. Subs: Walton, Maupay, Gross, March, Zeqiri, Sanders, Jenks, Weir, Khadra.
What’s that coming over the hill? It’s Manchester City. Not Manchester United, they’ve already scaled the summit and are peering down on everyone else. But City are on quietly excellent form, winning their last six games in all competitions and starting to look like the side that once surgically dissected all who crossed their pat. Win tonight and they will be four points off the top, with a further game in hand. Could we be in for a three-horse title race when things all shake down?
Brighton will have something to say about that tonight, although we’ll see how much. While City are on a roll, Graham Potter’s men can’t buy a win – although they have drawn four of their last five top-flight outings and recovered well from 3-1 down against Wolves last time out. They were taken the distance by Newport in the FA Cup on Sunday night, though, despite fielding a strong side. So will they take the hit here and eye other battles in their quest to move away from the relegation question, or will they have a real go?
We will soon find out! Kick-off is at 6pm UK time – so stay close and get your emails/tweets in to the addresses above.