Man City are in the building
Guardiola relishing facing ‘influential’ De Zerbi
Tonight’s game between Brighton and Manchester City could have been infused with the thick tension of a title decider, had Arsenal done their job and kept City honest. As it is, City have had their name engraved on the trophy for a third consecutive season, lifted it and went for a night on the town with two games to spare.
There is little for Pep Guardiola’s team to play for, although the City manager appears up for the cerebral challenge of facing Roberto De Zerbi, whom he hailed as “one of the most influential managers of the last 20 years”.
Brighton are assured of Europa League qualification, although this cannot be confirmed just yet due to some remote goal difference contingencies. Providing they avoid a 9-0 loss against City and an 8-0 defeat at Aston Villa on the final day, they are sixth and will play in European competition for the first time in their history.
Man City wants to press and push opponents back, but that is exactly what Brighton wants, which should make this an absorbing if inconsequential game. Against Arsenal at the Etihad, City morphed into more of a 4-2-4 shape and were more direct than usual, which shows Guardiola is not too proud to account for the other team’s virtues.
De Zerbi’s philosophy is all about attracting pressure before finding the free player with third-man movements – with the goalkeeper part of their build-up play Brighton have 11 outfielders against the opponent’s 10. The free player should always be there. When a team locks on to Brighton man-to-man they look for longer balls over the top, utilizing the speed of Karou Mitoma.
Adam Webster is back from Brighton, but City are being careful regarding Nathan Ake’s return to fitness with two cup finals on the horizon.
Full team news on the way shortly.
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