The Premier League title has come down to the final game of the season and if Manchester City win we will retain the trophy.
Manchester City have a rich recent history in playing critical last games of the season to seal glory and have so far done quite well in ending up with the trophies on offer. However, there is growing anxiety around amongst many of the City fans who worry we may freeze in the spotlight and fail to perform.
Brighton have proven archetypal stubborn opponents given they mainly defend in massed ranks, making space difficult to find and consequently goals tricky to come by. They pose a threat mainly through set pieces, which we know we can struggle to defend at times. They will be buoyed by any nervousness in our ranks and the warmth of love heading their way from Liverpool. In a tight ground with what always seems like a small pitch, they will prove tricky opposition. It will be no walk in the park to secure the three points we need.
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Of course City are coming into this game on the back of an impressive run of form comprising 13 League wins on the bounce – which has taken us from 7 points behind Liverpool to a point ahead in the title race. If form counts for anything then this should be a dead cert for City, especially when taking into account the relative poor run of form by Brighton.
Yet when I see these kind of statistics it just serves to make me feel pessimistic. It leaves me thinking our run must come to an end. Sometimes it can be poor decisions which mark games and the fear is we are on a run where we seem unable to secure a penalty despite the offences committed against our players.
Yet, the one thing which should reassure City fans amongst the anxiety is the remarkable consistency Pep Guardiola has developed. The intensity of our games and the way we have set up has been right in almost every game and we sit now on 195 points earned over 2 seasons with a game left to play.
City should have too much guile and creativity to be held by Brighton. The ideal scenario for all of us fans is if we race into a healthy lead from the off, allowing us long suffering fans some respite from this title race.
City will be without Fernandinho and Benjamin Mendy for this match, but otherwise have a fairly fit squad. Kevin De Bruyne has returned to training and may be able to feature in this game. How we would love a fit De Bruyne as he has exactly the kind of skills necessary to unlock a packed defence.
In defence I would suspect our Captain Kompany will start this game in a back four which will also comprise Laporte, Walker and Zinchenko.
In midfield Gundogan will sit in the deeper role whilst I would expect the two Silvas to start alongside him. I would be surprised if De Bruyne returned to immediate action given he only returned to first team training in mid week.
In attack I wondered whether Guardiola would throw caution to the wind and play Jesus and Aguero together – he has been known to make these kind of bold decisions when the stakes are high. Certainly both players would help unlock a tightly packed defence. Should Guardiola go for a more traditional team then Aguero would be flanked by Sterling and Sane for maximum impact.
Players will most likely be queueing up to try and put the ball in the net. We are rapidly approaching the end game now, so all we can do as fans is to have faith and believe. It is time to enjoy the spectacle and hope we finish the weekend as deserved Champions.
Predicted Starting XI
Walker, Kompany. Laporte, Zinchenko
Gundogan, Bernardo, Silva
Sterling, Aguero, Jesus