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Manchester City have only lost five times this season, but the list of teams they’ve fallen to is a grab-bag of names you would not expect.
Lyon, (Chelsea), Crystal Palace, Leicester, Newcastle. As strong as Pep Guardiola’s team are, it seems like most teams have just as much chance of beating them as anyone else. And, for Brighton, an FA Cup final is on the line if they can make it past the Premier League holders.
While it used to be the case that the best way to have a chance against City was to press them high up the pitch, the old tactic of sitting back and hitting them on the break now seems to be the way forward.
Apart from the Leicester game, every team to have beaten City this season has been comfortably outshot during the match. In these matches, Pep Guardiola’s team have failed to finish chances that they create throughout the game.
The team may also be struggling on the left-side of defence. With Benjamin Mendy sidelined through injury or late-night antics, Fabian Delph struggling this season with form and fitness, Danilo down the pecking order and Oleksandr Zinchenko picking up a hamstring injury in midweek, that flank may be patched together.
City don’t concede many chances, but when they do they’re not necessarily low-quality shots. Average their shots out, and they concede some of the highest-quality chances in the league (an average expected goals value of around 0.13-0.14 per shot). The teams around them are Everton and West Ham.
Glenn Murray has proven to be a valuable foil for Brighton’s attack this season, and he could take advantage of this.
He’s one of the players who has the highest average chance quality in the league (an average expected goals value of 0.21 per shot). Just like City’s opponents, he may not get a lot of shots off, but when he does they tend to be good ones.
If the Seagulls have a hope of getting past City then he’ll need to be on form again, but he can cause them awkward problems just by playing his regular game. Murray is targeted with an extraordinary amount of long balls, involved in 275 aerial duels so far this season, although he wins 47 per cent of them.
He’s also a tireless force at the front of the field, particularly considering that he turns 36 in September. Chris Hughton seems to get the best out of any of his players, and Murray is no different.
In Solly March, Alireza Jahanbakhsh, and Anthony Knockært, Brighton also have a selection of speedy wingers who, on the break, could cause City problems.
At the end of the day, though, you might just need a bit of luck to get past City. Lyon’s victory saw two City players awarded the ‘Error leading to a goal’ statistic by Opta and the Crystal Palace and Newcastle wins both included a penalty.
It’s not easy to beat City, but there’s a reason that people talk about the magic of the FA Cup. In a single match, under the pressure of a crowd at Wembley, anything can happen.