Brighton & Hove Albion and Leeds United will both be looking to get back to winning ways in the Premier League when they meet at the Amex Stadium on Saturday.

Brighton will be pleased with their start to the 2021/22 Premier League season, with four wins, five draws, and three defeats from 12 games, bagging them 17 points and putting them ninth in the league standings. However, the reality has struck in recent weeks. The Seagulls have not won in England’s top flight since the 19th of September, drawing five and losing two of their seven games since a 2-1 victory over Leicester City.

Graham Potter’s side have become the division’s draw specialists, playing out consecutive stalemates against Liverpool and Newcastle United before falling to a disappointing 2-0 defeat to Steven Gerrard’s Aston Villa last time out. Progress on last season’s 16th-place finish would be very commendable for Graham Potter & co. this campaign and early signs suggest that they might as well challenge for a place in the top half if they can turn their draws into wins.

On the other hand, Leeds started their last game brightly at Tottenham and looked to be on course for a vital result, with Daniel James putting the Whites in lead at the closing stages of the first half. But having ended up losing 2-1, the Yorkshire club have only one win in the last five games and suffered five defeats in 12 games this season, dropping them to 17th place in the table with 11 points in the bag, only two points above the relegation zone.

Marcelo Bielsa’s side were very impressive on their return to the top-flight last campaign, but it has been a bit of a wake-up call this season, and they could find themselves in a relegation scrap at the turn of the year. Ahead of their crucial game at the Amex Stadium, The Hard Tackle will now take a closer look at both sides.

Team News & Tactics

Brighton & Hove Albion

Brighton boss Graham Potter is boosted by the availability of first-choice goalkeeper Robert Sanchez, who returns from suspension after receiving a red card against Newcastle. The Seagulls remain without the services of Steven Alzate and Danny Welbeck, with both ruled out for this game. Potter has a few selection decisions to make in the coming weeks.

Enock Mwepu also has an outside chance of making the squad for the Leeds game. Following a 2-0 loss to Aston Villa last weekend, Potter will consider making changes this time around. Solly March, Joel Veltman and Neal Maupay could all return to the starting lineup while a shift to a back-four is also expected.

The English coach can set up his side in a 4-2-3-1 system. Although Jason Steele has played well against Aston Villa, Spanish ace Robert Sanchez could return between the sticks. Guarding him will be the central defensive pairing of Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy, with Adam Webster set to be dropped after completing his first 90 minutes at Villa since sustaining a hamstring injury in September.

Tariq Lamptey did not last the entire 90 minutes against Aston Villa, but that seemed a precautionary substitution, as Potter manages his return from a lengthy lay-off, so he should be ready to go as he regains full fitness. Joel Veltman should come back into the fold at right-back, pushing Lamptey into an advanced role while Marc Cucurella remains a livewire on left-flank.

Yves Bissouma will continue to offer Brighton the grit in the middle of the park with his ball-winning and tackling attributes. The Malian enforcer should complement Adam Lallana’s box-to-box ability. Lallana will once again serve as Potter’s creative lynchpin in a double midfield pivot alongside Bissouma.

The attacking trio of Tariq Lamptey, Leandro Trossard and Solly March could all slot in the supporting role for the main striker. Lamptey and Solly March would try to penetrate and stretch the opposition defences while Trossard will act as an attacking number ten sitting just behind the target-man Neal Maupay, who should be given a chance to lead the line for the Seagulls after spending last one month on the bench.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Sanchez; Veltman, Duffy, Dunk, Cucurella; Bissouma, Lallana; Lamptey, Trossard, March; Maupay

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Leeds United

Leeds United’s season so far has been hampered with constant injuries to key players, but the scenario is changing at Yorkshire club with the medical room emptying out in recent days. Whites’ boss Marcelo Bielsa has confirmed that Rodrigo and Raphinha are both available for the Brighton game after missing last weekend’s defeat to Tottenham due to injury and illness, respectively. Jamie Shackleton has also returned from injury.

Luke Ayling will play for Leeds U-23s side on Monday, whilst Patrick Bamford and Robin Koch are also nearing the end of their respective recoveries, indicating that there is finally light at the end of a very long tunnel for Leeds. Junior Firpo came back from injury as a substitute against Tottenham and will be in contention for this game.

Bielsa can set up Leeds in a similar 3-3-3-1 system he deployed last time out against Tottenham. Kalvin Phillips looked class featuring in the back-three dictating the play with his incredible variety and range of passing. He may continue to operate in the same position alongside Diego Llorente and Liam Cooper. The England international and Llorente offer a composed presence at the back, while skipper Cooper provides robustness and aerial competence.

The midfield-three will contain Stuart Dallas, Pascal Struijk and Mateusz Klich. Rodrigo put in some impressive performances in recent weeks could return to starting XI, while Raphinha will add a cutting edge to Leeds attacks in the final third.

Jack Harrison could keep his place after bagging his first assist of the season at Tottenham. After a tough start to his Leeds career, Daniel James finally managed to get his first goal in the last game and will look to build on the positive display leading the line in this game. His rapid pace is always a threat in the attacking third, but he needs to improve the end product to back it up.

Probable Lineup (3-3-3-1): Meslier; Llorente, Phillips, Cooper; Dallas, Struijk, Klich; Raphinha, Rodrigo, Harrison; James

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Key Stats

  • Leeds have lost eight of their last nine meetings against Brighton in all competitions, including both Premier League games during the 2020/21 campaign.
  • Brighton have failed to win their last 7 matches, only bottom-placed Newcastle(12) are on a longer winless streak than the Seagulls.
  • Brighton have managed to keep a clean sheet in each of their last five home games against Leeds in all competitions.
  • However, goals have been a problem for Graham Potter’s side this season, with just 12 goals scored in 12 games, with only four sides netting fewer.
  • Leeds have dropped 10 points from the winning positions, which shows their inability to hold onto a lead, with Burnley (12) and Newcastle (14) dropping more points than the Whites.

Player to Watch

Raphinha

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Leeds dearly missed his presence on the flanks last weekend and lacked creativity. He has resumed training this week and should be fit enough to return to the starting XI. With two goals from the last two games, Raphinha will play a pivotal role if Leeds are to fend off the relegation dogfight. Even though the Whites are a very good functional unit, they heavily rely on the Brazilian to deliver the goods in the final third.

In total, the 24-year-old has bagged five goals from 12 games so far this campaign. His underlying stats remain hugely impressive – he is averaging 3.5 shots, 2.2 key passes and 2.8 dribbles per game, making him one of the potent wide players in the division. And these numbers can rise with the return of Patrick Bamford in the coming weeks. Raphinha has been linked with several high-profile moves and if he continues on this trajectory, that big-money transfer will come sooner rather than later.

Prediction

Brighton & Hove Albion 2-2 Leeds United

With both sides having played out a combined seven draws from their last 11 games, a high-scoring draw is written all over this fixture. Neither team is in great form heading into the weekend’s encounter. It could be an intriguing tactical battle between the two of the best innovative coaches in football.

The game is expected to be very open and entertaining, with both sides playing a high-pressing, front-footed attacking brand of football. There is enough quality in attacking areas to trouble the scorers, but it would not be surprising if they cancel each other out. Hence, The Hard Tackle predicts an exciting 2-2 draw with both sides sharing the spoils.

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