Brighton have boosted their survival hopes with back-to-back wins, but Kevin Hatchard suspects they will come unstuck against Manchester United...
"Brighton won at a lacklustre Liverpool, but they have lost at Manchester City, Tottenham, Everton and Leicester City."
Manchester United v Brighton
Sunday 04 April, 19:30
Live on BT Sport 1
FA Cup exit raises fresh questions
After watching his side tumble out of the FA Cup against an admittedly excellent Leicester City, Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer blamed tiredness and a packed schedule. While it's certainly true that United have been fighting on numerous fronts all season, questions will understandably be asked about the Norwegian's ability to manage his squad. It seems incredibly curious for example that star player Bruno Fernandes would start a dead rubber against Real Sociedad in the Europa League (United were 4-0 up from the first leg), and yet would be used as a second-half sub at the King Power.
Solskjaer is yet to deliver a trophy at Old Trafford, and although United are justifiable favourites to win the Europa League (they can be backed at 2.89/5 in the Winner market), it remains to be seen whether they can win the high-pressure games you need to win to secure silverware.
After all, they did tumble out of the Champions League, despite collecting nine points from their first four games.
At least the Premier League form is consistent. United are unbeaten in their last nine top-flight matches, and at Old Trafford they have won seven of their last ten. Bizarrely, the only team to beat them at home since the first of November is rock-bottom Sheffield United.
Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood all have minor knocks picked up on international duty, and Solskjaer must decide who to start in goal, with a genuine battle having formed between David De Gea and Dean Henderson.
Baffling Brighton finally winning
Brighton's actual results have been so far below what Expected Goals data suggests they should have produced that you fear the xG robots may blow a gasket and start careening into each other. Graham Potter's serial underachievers should be in the top four according to Infogol's data, and yet they are still embroiled in a relegation battle.
Recent wins over Southampton and Newcastle have eased the pressure on the Seagulls somewhat, and they go into this weekend with a six-point lead over 18th-placed Fulham, with the bottom two surely now sunk without trace. Brighton have lost the fewest games in the bottom half (11) and conceded the fewest goals (36), and yet they are still probably a couple of wins short of safety.
Goalscoring has been their big problem this term, and is at the heart of why they have managed just seven wins from a series of dominant displays. They have scored just 32 times in the top flight, and yet the Expected Goals data suggests they should've scored 46 goals. Neil Maupay is the top scorer with eight goals, and no-one else has more than four.
Tariq Lamptey and Solly March are both out, while Aaron Connolly is a doubt after withdrawing from the Republic of Ireland squad with injury.
Brighton to fall short again
For all of their flaws, United's home form is pretty strong, and they have only leaked two goals in their last six Premier League matches. Brighton did win at Liverpool earlier this season, but they have also lost at Leicester, Tottenham, Manchester City and Everton. Our friends at Opta tell us they have lost their last five meetings with the Red Devils.
I'll back United -1.0 on the Asian Handicap here at 2.255/4. If United win by a single goal, our stake is returned, but if they win by two goals or more, we net an odds-against winner.
Alternatively, you can go for United to win and Under 3.5 Goals on the Same Game Multi at 2.11. Brighton's last 12 top-flight games have stayed under the 3.5 goals line.
Fernandes to strike again
Manchester United's star player is Portuguese midfielder Bruno Fernandes, and he is trading at an enticing 2.47/5 to score. Opta tell us he has scored seven winning goals in the league for United this term, and he netted the winner in the reverse fixture. Indeed, Fernandes has scored three times across two meetings with the Seagulls.
Kevin Hatchard 2020-21 English Football P/L
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