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Starting XI: Manchester United vs. Brighton & Hove Albion

Graham Potter brings his improving Albion side to Old Trafford

Brighton And Hove Albion v Manchester United - Carabao Cup Fourth Round Photo by Andy Rain - Pool/Getty Images

Everything that you need to know ahead of Sunday’s match:

(1) Manchester United crashed out of the FA Cup with a 3-1 loss at Leicester City before the international break. That was the club’s first domestic away loss in 29 matches and leaves the Reds alive in just two competitions — although only the Europa League looks like a realistic route to silverware. United must dust themselves off and prepare for a Brighton side playing much better than their lowly league position would suggest.

(2) Injuries are mounting across Manchester United’s frontline. Marcus Rashford missed the trip to Leicester and then briefly reported for international duty with England, before heading home early to continue rehabbing his foot injury. Mason Greenwood, too, withdrew from the England U21 squad with a knock and Anthony Martial limped off during France’s 2-0 win over Kazakhstan with a knee problem. The latter two injuries are not believed to be serious, but could limit Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s attacking options for this weekend.

(3) Bruno Fernandes also returned to Carrington early, though under much happier circumstances (at least from Manchester United’s perspective). His yellow card in Portugal’s World Cup qualifier against Serbia ruled him out of the national team’s next match, meaning that United’s star man could return to his club early and get in a little extra rest and training.

(4) Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on the international break:

Some go away with the national teammates and some stay here and train. They’ve been at Carrington every single day, working together and training together every single day, so a change of scenery will do some of them good. They’ll come back for Easter Sunday [at home to Brighton & Hove Albion] and be ready to go again.

(5) Under Graham Potter, Brighton rely on a quick, short passing game to pull opposing defenses out of position and create scoring chances. Their problem, though, is in translating this pleasing style of play into goals. More than anything else, Brighton’s profligacy in front of goal is to blame for the club’s current position on the periphery of the relegation zone. Potter’s side sits six points (and two places) above Fulham in 18th.

(6) Brighton entered the international break on a high by defeating Newcastle 3-0 in a relegation six-pointer. Leandro Trossard opened the scoring in a first half totally dominated by Brighton. Newcastle were slightly better after the break, but goals from Danny Welbeck and Neal Maupay finished off Steve Bruce’s side and lifted the Seagulls to their second league win in a row.

(7) Welbeck’s goal couldn’t have come at a better time for the former Red. The 30-year-old forward recently returned from (another) long-term injury and has now scored three times in sixteen appearances for Brighton. Welbeck’s contract only runs until the end of the season, so he needs a strong finish — and the club’s top-flight survival — to convince Potter to sign him up for another year.

(8) Brighton’s other reclamation project, Adam Lallana, has dazzled in his brief time at the Amex Stadium. He’s only got one goal and one assist so far this season, but it’s no overstatement to say that Lallana makes the entire Brighton attack tick with his aggressive play. Lallana ranks among the top Premier League midfielders in touches in the opposing penalty area and has formed a strong connection with Pascal Gross.

(9) Lallana on the growing confidence in the Brighton camp:

When I first came here in the summer, did I feel we believed we could go to a so-called big team in their backyard and win? I’m not sure. I feel that side of our game, our belief, our mentality, is changing.

People who know football know that doesn’t happen overnight. That comes with a consistent level of training, a consistent level of standards, discipline among the group. I feel that is coming and what a great test our next match is for us — at Old Trafford. There is no reason why we can’t go there and take all three points and get a positive result.

(10) Great story on Brighton goalkeeper Robert Sanchez and his winding road to the Spanish national team.

(11) Commanding center back Lewis Dunk also poses a threat from set pieces — and that’s always an area of concern for this Manchester United side. Last month, Dunk opened the scoring against Southampton with a strong header from a corner. The 6’4 defender makes for an inviting target in the penalty box and he’s used that size to score four goals this season.