Brighton & Hove Albion manager Chris Hughton highlighted the defensive quality of Saturday’s opponents Manchester City, after Pep Guardiola’s side squeezed past the Seagulls 1-0 in the Emirates FA Cup semi-finals at Wembley Stadium.
The reigning Premier League champions saw out the contest after Gabriel Jesus’s fourth-minute header, and Hughton was keen to point out their defensive attributes which often gets overlooked because of their attacking prowess.
He said, “If we talk about the top teams, Manchester City today [Saturday], they have such incredibly wonderful offensive players, but sometimes it’s forgotten how good defensively they are.
“Players such as [Kevin] De Bruyne and [Bernardo] Silva, they cover such big distances. When we work through the halfway line and receive the ball, there are two or three of their players around us.
“They work incredibly hard, and what can happen when the best teams play the best teams, the other best team are good enough to work out situations.
“It’s difficult for us, in areas where we’re being pressed by the quality that they’ve got, it’s very hard to retain possession. That would be no different to other teams not inside the top six.”
Guardiola introduced three defensive-minded players in the second half at Wembley, as City protected their narrow lead, and Hughton praised opposing manager Guardiola for his energy and tactical nous.
“He’s an outstanding manager — when you watch him on the touchline, it doesn’t matter if they’re playing against the top team or a team of our level, he’s animated and very passionate.
“He wants to win, you can tell that by everything that he does. He makes good enough decisions to make sure they win games.
“We had a bit of momentum, certainly in the second half, albeit from set plays and wide free kicks, which is something we’ve been very good at, it looked like we might get something.
“But they make the changes they need to win football matches, and that’s why they win so many.”
The Seagulls now turn their attention to their final seven Premier League matches of the season, and Hughton asked his players to quickly switch their focus to crucial back-to-back games at the Amex Stadium.
“It’s two massive games [v Bournemouth and Cardiff City]. What we have got is incredible support behind us and we’ll certainly need that at home to get back to winning ways.
“We did ourselves no favours losing the game at home to Southampton, but we need to put that right and make sure we get the results that we need.
“We’d been in decent form before that [Southampton defeat], certainly in regards to winning, but we need to get back to playing well enough, both defensively and offensively, to win a game.
“We’ve got a very tired group at the moment, but come Monday morning all our efforts and concentrations need to be on a home game against Bournemouth, and then Cardiff.”