The Premier League is back in our lives! The best football league in the world (Pep Guardiola doesn’t agree, by the way) starts on Friday with Arsenal and Leicester City starting things off at the Emirates Stadium.
Seven games take place in the opening Saturday of the season, and the final match on Saturday is the debut of Brighton & Hove Albion in the Premier League against title favorites Manchester City. The Amex Stadium will be absolutely packed and bouncing, and we should be treated to quite a fun match. Brighton didn’t win the Championship last season, but they were without a doubt the best team in the division.
Brighton are organized and know how to defend, but they also have a knack for scoring and a few very talented players. Chris Hughton is a competent manager, and his team will fight for every point against all the teams. Going to the Amex will never be easy, and City will be the first team to feel the atmosphere of one of the best grounds in England.
Let’s take a look at the probable starting lineups for both teams, starting with the visitors.
Pep Guardiola used three of the four preseason matches to test a 3-5-2 formation, and it’d be a big surprise if he didn’t use that same system against Brighton. The team looked comfortable, organized and dangerous with the new formation, and the results were positive. The performances were even more impressive, and we’ll probably see three at the back again.
Three new signings will likely feature in the starting lineup: Éderson Moraes starts in goal, with Claudio Bravo having just returned to training and being not good enough to start over the Brazilian. Éderson was sensational in preseason and we hope that he stays that way in competitive matches. Kyle Walker and Danilo will be the two wing-backs, and their performances in preseason at that position were very encouraging.
At the back, Vincent Kompany, John Stones and Nicolás Otamendi will start together. At this point of the season with no European games during the month of August, there’s no need to rotate the three center-backs and they’ll have the entire week to recover for the following matches. All three looked very good in preseason, both with and without the ball, and it makes sense to have them together for the season opener.
In midfield, the same trio from the end of last season: Yaya Touré, Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva are able to control the game and make accurate passes regardless of distance. Silva has the magical touch and the perfect through balls, while De Bruyne can make an assist out of nowhere. There’s a chance Fernandinho starts over Touré, but that’s unlikely. Bernardo Silva has been training for only 10 days and we won’t see him starting, but the new signing will most definitely feature in the second half.
Up front, the choice is easy: Sergio Agüero and Gabriel Jesus. These are the only two strikers in the squad, and they looked good together against West Ham United in the final preseason match. Raheem Sterling will probably be used as a striker if the 3-5-2 becomes the default formation for the team, and he’ll serve as backup to Agüero and Jesus against Brighton.
Predicted lineup (3-5-2): Éderson; Kompany, Stones, Otamendi; Walker, De Bruyne, Touré, Silva, Danilo; Agüero, G.Jesus
BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION
The Seagulls make their Premier League debut with a few new faces signed during the summer transfer window. Matthew Ryan starts in goal, Markus Suttner will begin the season at left-back, Pascal Gross is the dynamic presence in midfield, and Davy Pröpper from PSV will be the link, playing behind the striker and providing assists to Glenn Murray and others.
Anthony Knockaert was sensational last season and will probably take the Premier League by storm this season, but an injury will most likely stop him from showing his talent against City. The Frenchman will be on the bench, but his participation in the game should be minimal. Brighton will line up in a classic English formation with two lines of four and Pröpper in behind Murray.
There are no secrets or special tactics in Chris Hughton’s side: Brighton will defend deep when necessary but will be intense and efficient when they have the ball. They’ll feed off the crowd and start the game on the front foot, and unless City are able to control possession in the early minutes, they might suffer.
Predicted lineups (4-4-1-1): Ryan; Saltor, Dunk, Duffy, Suttner; Skálák, Stephens, Gross, March; Pröpper; Murray