Chelsea will be aiming to keep up the pressure on their top four rivals with a win when they face off against Brighton & Hove Albion in the midweek.
Chelsea will welcome Chris Hughton’s Brighton & Hove Albion to Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night, as they continue to fight for a place in the top four of the Premier League.
The Blues come into the game seated sixth on the league table, a point behind Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United, who occupy the fourth and fifth spots, respectively and three below Arsenal who sit third. Should other results go their way, Maurizio Sarri’s men can go into the weekend occupying the fourth spot with a win.
However, Chelsea’s recent performances in the English top-flight are a slight cause of concern. The West London outfit escaped with a lucky 2-1 win over Cardiff City this past weekend and were without a win in their previous two league matches (D1 L1). A victory is a must on Wednesday, if they want to not lose important ground in the top four race.
Brighton & Hove Albion, on the other hand, come into the game in the 15th position in the Premier League standings, after their 1-0 defeat to Southampton this past weekend. The Seagulls are five points clear of the drop zone but do need to a few more positive results to ensure their safety.
The last time Brighton faced Chelsea, they were beaten 2-1 and they will be hoping to avoid a similar result when they travel to Stamford Bridge. Chris Hughton’s side, however, will have an eye on their impending FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City at the weekend, which could prove to be a distraction for the visitors.
Team News & Tactics
Sarri drew a lot of criticism for his team selection against Cardiff City at the weekend, with the Italian deciding to drop the likes of Eden Hazard and N’Golo Kante out of the starting XI, while Callum-Hudson Odoi’s non-involvement also didn’t go down all too well with the fans. All of them are likely to be back in the lineup for Wednesday’s game.
Marcos Alonso is a doubt for the game having picked up a hamstring problem in the weekend game. Other than that, there are no major injury/suspension concerns for Chelsea heading into the midweek clash. No changes are expected in goal, with Kepa Arrizabalaga the established first-choice for the West Londoners.
Cesar Azpilicueta, who scored one of Chelsea’s two goals against Cardiff, will continue at right-back, while Emerson Palmieri is set to start on the opposite flank. Antonio Rudiger should continue at the heart of the Blues’ defence, but Andreas Christensen could get a start in place of David Luiz.
Kante should be reinstated to the three-man midfield, while Ruben Loftus-Cheek is also likely to be rewarded with a start after his match-winning goal against Cardiff City, meaning Ross Barkley and Mateo Kovacic are set to drop out. Jorginho will continue in the deep-lying role, but needs to improve on his recent displays.
Up ahead in attack, wholesale changes are likely to take place with Hudson-Odoi and Hazard set to start on the right and left flanks respectively, while Olivier Giroud should get the nod ahead of the misfiring Gonzalo Higuain as the lone striker.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Kepa; Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Christensen, Emerson; Kante, Jorginho, Loftus-Cheek; Hudson-Odoi, Giroud, Hazard
Brighton & Hove Albion
Striker Florin Andone is expected to be fit and available for selection, but is unlikely to feature from the kick-off. Question marks remain over the availability of creator-in-chief Pascal Gross, who is recovering from a hamstring injury. Despite the FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City coming up, Hughton is expected to name a strong XI on Wednesday.
There is no looking past Australian keeper Mat Ryan between the sticks for the Seagulls, while the centre-half duo of Shane Duffy and Lewis Dunk are certain starters when fit and available as well.
Bernardo has been preferred at left-back for the last three matches, but could make way for Gaetan Bong, while Martin Montoya should continue at right-back. Both the full-backs will have their tasks cut out going up against the flair and pace of Hazard and Hudson-Odoi.
Dale Stephens will operate in the holding midfield role and look to guard his backline against Chelsea’s midfield runners. Support in the middle of the park will come from Davy Propper and Yves Bissouma. Anthony Knockaert will provide the creative threat from the right flank, while Solly March is likely to replace Alireza Jahanbakhsh on the left. Leading scorer Glenn Murray will spearhead the attack.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Ryan; Montoya, Duffy, Dunk, Bong; Bissouma, Stephens, Propper; Knockaert, Murray, March
- Chelsea have won all seven of their league games against Brighton – only Wimbledon against Bournemouth (8/8) have a better 100% win record against an opponent in English Football League history.
- Brighton have lost all four of their away games against Chelsea in all competitions, failing to score each time.
- Chelsea have won their last nine games in all competitions against Brighton, last winning 10 in a row against an opponent vs Bolton between 2008-2014.
- Brighton won their last away Premier League game (2-1 vs Crystal Palace), but haven’t won consecutive league games on the road since November 2017. They have lost all nine of their Premier League away games against ‘Big Six’ sides, scoring just two goals in those matches.
- Maurizio Sarri’s men have lost just one Premier League home game so far this season (vs Leicester City in December), and have kept six clean sheets in their last nine at Stamford Bridge.
Player to Watch
It has been a strange season for the teenage prodigy at Chelsea. Hudson-Odoi has done well each time he has gotten an opportunity in the first-team and even made a solid impression on his first-ever call-up to the England national team as well last month.
However, the winger just cannot seem to earn the trust of manager Sarri. The Italian tactician, however, hinted that the two-time capped England international could get a chance against Brighton on Wednesday.
Hudson-Odoi, so far this term, has netted five goals and set up four more in the FA Cup and Europa League combined. In what could be his first-ever Premier League start on Wednesday night, the 18-year-old will be looking to mark the momentous occasion with a goal.
Chelsea 2-0 Brighton & Hove Albion
Chelsea survived by the skin of their teeth against Cardiff City this past week and can’t afford any slip-ups at this juncture, with the battle for the top four so close and intense. Brighton have won four of their last six matches in all competitions, but the FA Cup semi-final tie against Manchester City might cause an unwanted distraction.
Chelsea boast a highly impressive record against the Seagulls and considering how poorly Chris Hughton’s side have fared against the top six sides this term, we at The Hard Tackle are predicting a straightforward 2-0 win for Maurizio Sarri’s men.