MX23RW : Thursday, February 21 14:56:53

Preview: Brighton & Hove Albion vs. Manchester United - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole provides predicted lineups, team news and a full match preview of Manchester United's Premier League trip to Brighton & Hove Albion.

Manchester United have the chance to seal a runners-up spot in the Premier League with victory over Brighton & Hove Albion on Friday night.

The Red Devils, five points better off than closest challengers Liverpool with this game in hand to play, come up against a Brighton side winless in seven and still not assured of safety.

Brighton & Hove Albion

Brighton & Hove Albion manager Chris Hughton watches on during his side's Premier League clash with Crystal Palace at the Amex Stadium on November 28, 2017© SilverHub

Brighton may have collected just three points from the last 18 on offer, but back-to-back draws against Tottenham Hotspur and Burnley could well prove to be enough to get them over the line.

Celebrations in the away end at Turf Moor certainly suggested as much, with Southampton requiring two wins from their final three matches which, even if they manage to pull that off, would leave the likes of Swansea City and Huddersfield Town at more immediate risk of relegation.

Still, Chris Hughton will not fancy travelling to Anfield on the final day with his side's fate still in the air, so another point from two other tough fixtures against Man United and Manchester City will be the target in the week leading up to the Liverpool match.

A tough end to the campaign for the Seagulls, then, but a campaign that still looks likely to end on a high unless those already in the bottom three can pull off unlikely results in the remainder of the season.

Should that prove to be the case, and safety is indeed confirmed, Albion will no doubt look back at a run of three wins and two draws between the end of January and start of March, culminating in a 2-1 triumph at home to Arsenal.

Brighton's record at the Amex Stadium in general has been pretty impressive, even accounting for their current three match winless streak, having amassed 26 points from 18 games there - only seven teams can boast a better return.

A particularly good omen for the Seagulls is that they have won six of their last seven home matches on a Friday, drawing the other, although Hughton has just one managerial win against Man United, losing the other six by an aggregate score of 15-0.

With the pressure off slightly for this first home meeting in any competition with the Red Devils since 1992, Hughton will hope that his players can put on a show for supporters to ensure that the trips to Man City and Liverpool are nothing more than dead rubbers.

Recent form in Premier League: LLDLDD

Manchester United

Jose Mourinho watches on during the FA Cup quarter-final between Manchester United and Brighton & Hove Albion on March 17, 2018© Offside

Due to the title race being over - officially for a few weeks, unofficially for a few months - United's long-term target as far as their league campaign is concerned has been finishing second behind runaway champions Man City.

The Red Devils can achieve that mission with time to spare on Friday night, requiring just three more points to hold off a Liverpool side that has played a game more and fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur six points further back.

There can be little disputing that United would be deserving runners-up, having accrued enough points - should they win these final three fixture - to win the title in nine previous Prem campaigns.

If their league failure can be put down to the strength of Man City, then there can be few excuses for what happened in the Champions League when crashing out to Sevilla, leaving Jose Mourinho requiring victory in the FA Cup final to salvage his second campaign at Old Trafford.

Since that damaging last-16 defeat, the Red Devils have won six of their last seven matches, with the only blemish in that sequence coming at the hands of basement club West Bromwich Albion - another reminder that United still have work to do ahead of next season.

Mourinho will be keen to point out, though, that his side have also defeated Chelsea, Liverpool, Man City, Arsenal and Spurs over the past 10 weeks - the latter in the FA Cup - and are well positioned to give a better account of themselves in next term's title race with a couple of additions.

United are now seeking a fourth away league win in a row for the first time since April 2017, but Mourinho will need no reminding that his side have already suffered defeats at the two other promoted clubs in Huddersfield Town and Newcastle United.

A similar result this weekend would not quite be a disaster for United, who would still be strong favourites to claim second, though Mourinho will be after a run of wins to take into the huge FA Cup final meeting with Chelsea.

Recent form Premier League: WWWLWW
Recent form (all competitions): WWLWWW

Team News

Romelu Lukaku in action during the Champions League round-of-16 game between Manchester United and Sevilla on March 13, 2018© Offside

The only absentee for Brighton is Steve Sidwell, who has not featured at all this campaign due to an ankle injury, so Hughton has plenty of options to choose from.

Davy Propper's return from suspension is also a real positive, and the Dutch midfielder may slot right back into the side alongside Dale Stephens for his 33rd Premier League start of the campaign.

There should also be room in the starting lineup a little further forward for Pascal Gross, who has been directly involved in 44% of Brighton's 32 league goals in 2017-18.

As far as United are concerned, Romelu Lukaku limped off with an ankle injury against Arsenal last weekend and is now in a race against time to return to action before the FA Cup final in a fortnight.

Lukaku's absence could mean a spot through the middle for Marcus Rashford, while Alexis Sanchez has steadily improved out wide since arriving from Arsenal in January - two goals and three assists in five matches for the Chilean.

Elsewhere, Phil Jones is back from a hamstring complaint that ruled him out against Arsenal, and Eric Bailly is also expected to travel to the south coast after surprisingly being omitted from the Red Devils' squad for their last two matches.

Brighton & Hove Albion possible starting lineup:
Ryan; Schelotto, Duffy, Dunk, Bong; Knockaert, Stephens, Propper, Izquierdo; Gross; Murray

Manchester United possible starting lineup:
De Gea; Valencia, Smalling, Lindelof, Young; Herrera, Matic, Pogba; Mata, Rashford, Sanchez

Head To Head

Brighton's only win in 18 previous meetings with United in all competitions was by a 1-0 scoreline at home in 1982.

The Red Devils have won each of the last four encounters without conceding a goal, although each of those have come at Old Trafford.

United followed up a 1-0 league win in November with a 2-0 triumph in the FA Cup quarter-finals two months ago, making this the third time they have faced off this term.

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We say: Brighton & Hove Albion 0-1 Manchester United

Both sides are within touching distance of achieving their targets - albeit an updated target in United's case, having seen Man City run away with the title. Finishing second in the Premier League and winning the FA Cup would still make this a positive campaign for Mourinho's men, however, and they should keep their momentum going with three points on the south coast.

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Alexis Sanchez in action during the Premier League game between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United on January 31, 2018
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