Preview: Daunting debut awaits Brighton
By Simon Evans
MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - The step-up to the Premier League presents a challenge to all promoted clubs but hosting the title favourites Manchester City on day one gives Brighton and Hove Albion little chance to ease themselves into the top flight.
Curiously, Brighton's last home game in the top division of English football was against City in 1983. But the two clubs, who have endured plenty of ups and downs since, are barely recognisable from those days.
Brighton's home then was the Goldstone Ground, which was sold in 1997 as the club battled against possible bankruptcy, leaving them 'homeless' until they moved into their current venue, the Amex Stadium, six years ago.
The City line-up for their 1-0 win was all-British but the eleven who will take the field on Saturday will be drawn from around the world - with even more international talent having been recruited during the close-season.
City's Arab billionaire owner Sheikh Mansour has invested more than 200 million pounds in new players during the close-season adding to their already impressive attacking options and upgrading their identified 'weak spots' at full-back and goalkeeper.
While the arrival of Kyle Walker, Benjamin Mandy and Danilo for the full-back role and Brazilian goalkeeper Ederson shows manager Pep Guardiola recognised the need to shore up his back-line, the Spaniard's attacking philosophy is unlikely to change.
With Sergio Aguero and Brazilian Gabriel Jesus the options for central striker and the likes of David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane and new arrival Bernardo Silva to choose from as attacking midfielders, City have little choice but to attack.
Guardiola, of course, is a believer in possession-based attacking, and so Brighton fans can expect a Premier League bow involving a lot of work off the ball.
"We know from working in pre-season on the training pitch what our game plan is going to be in most games. Then we have got to adapt to their style of play," says Brighton midfielder Steve Sidwell.
"We will have to be patient – and the crowd will have to be patient as well sometimes. If we get on top, we have got to make it count and get the fans right behind us," he added.
Brighton have been busy in the transfer market themselves since securing promotion from the Championship after two excellent seasons for Chris Hughton's team.
Two of the most impressive deals have come in the final week of pre-season with club record signings of midfielder Davy Propper from PSV Eindhoven and Colombian winger Jose Izquierdo from Club Brugge.
With Pascal Gross and Markus Suttner signed from Bundesliga side Ingolstadt, Brighton have quickly followed the Premier League trend, creating a multinational squad with a strong European influence.
But how quickly they can gel into an effective Premier League unit will be one of the biggest tests facing Hughton's side.
While City are intimidating opposition, Brighton will go into the game with the adrenalin of promotion still pumping through their veins.
"It’s a wonderful game for the club and supporters, as a first game in the Premier League, but we have to make sure it’s a good day for the team as well," said Hughton.
(Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Andrew Bolton)