The first game of the third weekend of Premier League action in 2020/21 is definitely one of the most intriguing fixtures this week as it kicks off at 12.30pm.
Manchester United will be looking to get their campaign rolling after a disappointing 3-1 home defeat to Crystal Palace. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer ran his main men into the ground last season as they reached three cup semi-finals, and it looked as if many of them are still trying to recover.
United did at least pick up a 3-0 win at Luton in the Carabao Cup in midweek. How much a win against a team who avoided relegation to League One on the final day of last season tells us remains to be seen though.
They certainly won’t find it easy against Brighton, who have started the season very nicely indeed. They were unfortunate to lose to Chelsea as they had the better chances, and then blew Newcastle away inside seven minutes.
If you put faith in the underlying expected goal statistics, then the Seagulls and Liverpool are the only teams who have deserved to win two games so far this season. Brighton have a good home record against United too, albeit they did lose 3-0 when they last met on the south coast in June.
However, they won the two clashes at the Amex prior to that, and their six Premier League home points against the Red Devils is more than they’ve picked up there against Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham combined. Brighton have taken seven points from Arsenal though because, you know, Arsenal.
Paddy has more faith in United than I do based on last weekend, as he has them as odds on favourites to win. But then their away form in the Premier League is very strong – they were unbeaten in their final seven league matches on the road in 2019/20, a run which included winning the final four to nil.
The contrasting performances which these two teams offered up last weekend has convinced me that Brighton have a chance though. Solsksjaer’s side only won two of the 17 league games in which they conceded the opening goal last season, so if the Seagulls fly out of the traps, they should be good for at least a point.
These teams have had an interesting relationship when it comes to the over/under goals market. In the last three seasons, only 48 of Brighton’s Premier League games have featured at least three goals, which is the fewest among the 16 clubs who were consistently in the top flight in that period.
United’s matches haven’t been quite so dull, but they’re only ranked 10th out of 16 on our excitement meter since the summer of 2017. Yet the last four meetings between themselves and the Seagulls have all paid out on over 2.5 goals, with a total of 15 goals scored in those matches.
And while it’s a tiny sample, their collective three games in the 2020/21 Premier League have all featured more than two goals too. Early kick-offs have a reputation for being dull, but this season we’ve already had Fulham 0 Arsenal 3, Everton 5 West Brom 2 and Southampton 2 Tottenham 5.
Rise and shine in the Premier League in 2020/21.
The good news for Brighton is that their front three are all off the mark for the season. Graham Potter started a front line of Aaron Connolly, Neal Maupay and Leandro Trossard at St James’ Park last weekend, and that trio account for the four league goals the Seagulls have scored so far this term.
The Brighton manager might not be so bold here – he went with a front two in their last home game against Chelsea, with Connolly a half-time substitute for the (surprise, surprise) injured Adam Lallana.
Whatever tactical pattern Potter spins on his wheel, Maupay should be one of the forwards after his brace at Newcastle, so he’ll get chances here.
For United, it’s not easy to pick a man in form. Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford each only had one shot apiece against Palace (though the latter scored at Luton), while Mason Greenwood’s crazy scoring record has cooled off a bit.
The only player who ended last season scoring regularly was Bruno Fernandes, thanks to his hop, step and jump penalties. With uncertainty surrounding the Mancunians, pop Maupay on your coupon.
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