The final away game before Christmas is upon us. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton turn their attention to Sunday on the South Coast…
Chelsea will hope to consign back-to-back away defeats to the dustbin of history after Saturday’s morale-boosting triumph over Manchester City. The Blues have prevailed in all of the past eight meetings with Brighton in all competitions, scoring 18 times in the process and conceding once.
In fact the hosts have not beaten the Londoners in any match since an FA Cup third-round tie in January 1933, but they boast the seventh best home record in the top flight this season – better than Wolves and Tottenham.
After 16 matches, Albion sit 12th in the table on 21 points, two-thirds of which have been earned at the Amex Stadium, where they are unbeaten in four. They were, however, beaten last week at Burnley – a club in the bottom three before kick-off.
Goal difference is often a good indicator of underlying form, though, and the Seagulls’ -2 is only one inferior to that of Manchester United, who are six rungs higher up the league ladder.
Brighton have won one of their 10 Premier League games against sides starting the day in the top four (two draws, seven defeats). They beat Manchester United 1-0 in May.
— Key stat
This is yet another early Sunday post-Europe slot that provides the minimum time for recovery and preparation. The most recent of them was the even less amenable midday visit of Fulham. However the Blues have a fine record in games following a Europa League Thursday, and are yet to concede in the five to date.
Chelsea’s first ever Europa League group-stage campaign was completed without defeat in Budapest thanks to half-time substitute Olivier Giroud’s dead-ball corker after Willian’s opener, also a set-piece.
The last time the Blues netted two direct free-kicks in the same game was in the FA Cup against Ipswich on 24 January 2009. Michael Ballack steered one over the wall and Frank Lampard’s swirling 30-yarder completed the 3-1 scoreline.
The wonderful 2-0 victory over Manchester City was first time the champions have been beaten in the top flight since April, and the only time they have conceded twice in an away league game since January.
In our preview for that match we touched on how head-to-head matches between the top five teams vying for Champions League places could prove decisive in the final placings. As a result of last Saturday’s wonderful victory the Blues currently lead the way in that ‘league within a league.’
The next match involving two of the leading quintet is Arsenal’s visit to Anfield on 29 December. Chelsea’s next showdown with a close rival is 19 January, away to the Gunners.
Some people have suggested Saturday’s performance witnessed a temporary suspension of the Maurizio Sarri style people have called Sarri-ball, in favour of a more direct, less possession-based approach.
Pep Guardiola suggested the brilliant first goal came from a counter-attack, yet the Londoners had retained possession for some time before David Luiz’s long cross-field ball bypassed City’s press.
A team as talented and confident as the Citizens can dictate how an opponent plays, at least for periods of a game. And if anything the threat presented by the champions brought out a performance closer to the coach’s template – certainly in terms of defending – than was the case the previous two or three Blues league games.
Next Premier League visitors to the Bridge, Leicester, are at Crystal Palace on Saturday, then entertain Man City in the Carabao Cup three days later.
The Under-19s will discover their UEFA Youth League play-off pairing on Monday. Potential opponents include Juventus, Monaco, Lokomotiv Moscow, PSG, Benfica, Lyon and Roma.
The quadrennial AFC Asian Cup takes place in United Arab Emirates from 5 January to 1 February. As with all international tournaments under FIFA regulations, up to 23 players from the 24 participating nations must be released by their clubs for the duration.
In 2015 (when eight fewer countries were involved) eight clubs from the English leagues, including Aston Villa, Crystal Palace, Southampton and West Brom, released players to Australia, Iraq, Japan, Oman, and South Korea.
When the 2019 squads are named next week we will find out whether Tottenham’s Son Heung Min, who featured for the Koreans four years ago, is among those going on international sabbatical again.
Brighton are likely to lose first choice ’keeper Maty Ryan to reigning champions Australia, but Huddersfield’s Aaron Mooy will not be joining the Socceroos because of injury.
Following crowd incidents that stained the club’s reputation, the Blues’ travelling support will be under scrutiny again this weekend. Brighton have publicly reiterated their ‘clear policies and guidelines with regard to spectator conduct in the stadium’ this week, and Chelsea will take the strongest action against those who use discriminatory words in chants. The solution to all this lies in the hands of us as supporters of the club.
THE BEST THAT CAN HAPPEN THIS WEEKEND…
Three points on the road for the first time since October.
Premier League fixtures
Manchester City v Everton 12.30pm - Sky Sports
Crystal Palace v Leicester 3pm
Huddersfield v Newcastle 3pm
Tottenham v Burnley 3pm
Watford v Cardiff 3pm
Wolves v Bournemouth 3pm
Fulham v West Ham 5.30pm - BT Sport
Brighton v Chelsea 1.30pm
Southampton v Arsenal 1.30pm - Sky Sports
Liverpool v Manchester United 4pm - Sky Sports
The Premier League table
The guide includes changes to their policy with regards to suitcases and large bags, and solid containers and flasks. Only clear plastic water bottles 500ml or lower will now be permitted.
The two recommended pubs that visiting supporters can visit are located in the City Centre on West Street, named Yates and Weatherspoons.