Antonio Conte will bring his Chelsea team to the Amex Stadium to face Chris Hughton’s Brighton on Saturday night, with both sides needing a win for very different reasons.
Brighton came away from the Hawthorn’s empty-handed last weekend, as a 2-0 loss to West Bromwich Albion made it four Premier League games without a win.
The Seagulls have slipped to just three points above the relegation zone after a promising start to their inaugural season in the Premier League, and Hughton will be hoping his side can earn a big win to click their season back into gear.
Chelsea had it tough during the week, with Norwich City taking them all the way to penalties in their FA Cup third round replay, although the Blues eventually advanced to the next round. A 0-0 draw with Leicester City in their last league fixture leaves the Londoners sitting fourth place in the Premier League, losing ground on Manchester United in second.
Antonio Conte’s side have struggled for goals in recent weeks, and the Italian will be hoping that this will change in order to reinstate Chelsea’s top two intentions.
Key Battle: Chelsea’s wounded attack vs Brighton’s solid defence
The Blues will have to make do without attacking duo Pedro and Alvaro Morata, as the Spaniards were both sent off in the FA Cup thriller during the week.
This significantly weakens Chelsea’s attacking options, and means Michy Batshuayi could be in line for back-to-back starts, or could also mean a change of system. The reigning champions have scored just three goals in their past five games, and without two of their first choice players in the front third, their barren run may well continue.
Brighton have the best defence out of the bottom 13 clubs in the top flight, and the seventh best in the whole league. Australian Mathew Ryan has impressed in goal, while Shane Duffy and Lewis Dunk have bene mainstays at the heart of the back four, with the latter playing every minute of Brighton’s campaign so far.
If the Seagulls can defend well and frustrate their visitors, they will be in with a fantastic chance of stealing a goal, and a famous victory.
The hosts have the luxury of being able to call on a nearly full squad, with only Steve Sidwell unavailable as he faces a sustained period on the sidelines with a long-term ankle injury.
Expected Brighton XI (4-4-1-1): Ryan (GK); Bruno, Duffy, Dunk, Bong, Knockaert, Propper, Stephens, Izquierdo, Groß, Murray.
Conte will be without Morata and Pedro through suspension as previously mentioned, while there are also doubts surrounding the availability of Gary Cahill, Cesc Fabregas and new signing Ross Barkley – who is yet to make his debut for the club.
Expected Chelsea XI (3-5-2): Courtois (GK); Azpilicueta, Cahill, Christensen, Moses, Kante, Bakayoko, Fabregas, Alonso, Willian, Hazard.
These two teams have met just nine times in their history, with Chelsea taking the honours on seven occasions. Brighton have one win to their name, while the sides shared the spoils for the only time back in the 1967 FA Cup.
Just over three weeks ago was the last time the two sides collided, with Conte’s men running out 2-0 victors courtesy of goals from Morata and Marcos Alonso. The Blues will be hoping for a repeat performance this time around.
This match will very likely be a low scoring affair, as Chelsea’s mishaps in front of goal are evident, while only Swansea have found the net less times than Brighton have in the Premier League this season.
The key for the hosts will be in defence. If they can limit Chelsea’s options up front, frustrate them and force them to take risks in order to score, then they have every chance of catching their opponents on the counter and stealing a goal.
Chelsea need to rediscover their scoring touch, and will need to perform well to break down a very well organised and well-disciplined Brighton team.
Ultimately, the Blues should have just a bit too much class and quality for their opponents, and should be able to leave the South coast with three points under their belt.
Brighton and Hove Albion 0-1 Chelsea