Brighton boss Graham Potter believes Wednesday’s night’s opponents Manchester City are fast-approaching their best.
Potter’s battle-weary side have had little time to recover from Sunday’s FA Cup exertions when they needed a penalty shoot-out to squeeze past Newport.
They now bid to steer clear of the Premier League’s bottom three and head to the Etihad Stadium with a depleted squad to face City, who have won their last six matches.
“They’re in a really good moment,” Potter said. “The Chelsea game in particular was one of the best games I have seen from a performance perspective, they were fantastic.
“They have been solid, they don’t concede much, defensively they are very sound and the fluidity that you associate with them has been getting better and better as you’d expect, they’re a top team.”
Brighton have lost all six of their league encounters with Pep Guardiola’s side since winning promotion back to the top flight in 2017, beaten 4-0 and 5-0 last season.
They also lost 1-0 to City at Wembley in their FA Cup semi-final in 2019.
“We feel that we have improved, certainly performance-wise, results-wise we haven’t,” Potter said. “That’s the challenge for us, we have to improve that.
“Performance-wise we have got better, funnily enough the game at the Etihad last season we were quite satisfied with, even though the scoreline was 4-0.
“It’s a fantastic challenge, they’re one of the best teams in European football. What better way than to play against that sort of opposition?”
Potter, whose side sit one place and three points above the relegation zone, admires City’s work ethic as much as their individual talent.
“They have lots of top individuals, but collectively they’re an amazing outfit, all credit to Pep and his staff for that,” he said.
“They’ve not just got the talent, the tactical flexibility, just the attacking football, there’s an attitude to run, to fight, to work hard, there’s a humility about the team.
“They go about their work in an amazing way, they’re worthy Premier League champions for two of the last three years, they’re a fantastic team.”
Potter, without suspended midfielder Yves Bissouma, is hoping Iran forward Alireza Jahanbakhsh can recover from a knock after being forced off during Sunday’s cup-tie.
Adam Lallana (illness), Danny Welbeck (knee), Aaron Connolly and Tariq Lamptey (both hamstring) all remain sidelined, but Colombia midfielder Steven Alzate has recovered from illness and could return to the bench.