Pre-Match Briefing: Brighton vs Chelsea

From the north-west of England to its south coast in the space of three days, the Blues aim to put Saturday’s setback behind us when we face the Seagulls. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton provide the information ammo…

Chelsea, who slipped to third in the Premier League with the ending of a six-match unbeaten league run, travel to ninth-placed Brighton, who have managed one home win since September.

This fixture, brought forward from next month because of the Blues’ Club World Cup adventure in Abu Dhabi, was fitted into a midweek freed up by the scrapping of FA Cup replays.

The Blues have soldiered on with no league matches postponed and have therefore played more games than most. Despite flourishing in cup contests, though, Thomas Tuchel’s men have managed two league wins in the past eight top-flight fixtures.

In the 20 days since these two teams played out a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge, the Londoners have been in action five times while the Seagulls have played three. During that December meeting Reece James joined fellow wing-back Ben Chilwell on the long-term injured list, adding to the European champions’ continued disruptions through Covid and fatigue.

Chelsea 1-1 Brighton (H) | Premier League Highlights

Highlights from our 1-1 draw with Brighton at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League

Television scheduling has handed Albion an extra day’s rest and preparation time. All the same, the game presents a chance to reclaim second spot from Liverpool as Graham Potter’s team have performed better as travellers than hosts this season. The jaunty ‘Good Old Sussex By The Sea’ anthem has preceded just three victories in front of their own supporters.

Then there is the weight of history. Chelsea remain unbeaten at Brighton in league matches and have won six matches there in all competitions, each under a different coach: Dave Sexton, John Neal, Bobby Campbell, Antonio Conte, Maurizio Sarri and Frank Lampard.

Chelsea have scored in all nine of our away games against Brighton across all competitions.


Chelsea team news

Once again Chelsea face a tight turnaround against hosts who have been handed more time to recover and prepare. The reverse fixture against Brighton between Christmas and New Year saw Reece James and Andreas Christensen join an already lengthy absentee list and Joel Veltman’s dubious penalty-area challenge on Christian Pulisic go unreviewed.

It felt like everything was going against the Blues that night and, once Danny Welbeck nodded in a late equaliser, it had. It was the first Premier League game in which the Londoners had fewer shots on target than the more goal-shy Seagulls.

Thomas Tuchel also noted that individual quality upfront made the difference in our loss at the Etihad, though Manchester City’s winner was an unusual one for the Blues to let in this season: only the second we have conceded in this campaign from outside the area.

The front-three failed to click in Manchester and have now recorded the most offsides in the league, but still produced good openings to take the lead. To regain potency and retain freshness Tuchel may make changes, with Kai Havertz, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Timo Werner no doubt figuring in the Bavarian’s reckoning.

Callum Hudson-Odoi was a second-half substitute at Man City

Defensively his leeway remains restricted but, happily, Malang Sarr’s star continues to ascend after what was his toughest challenge to date on Saturday. Although Tuchel knows he can rely on anyone he puts on the pitch there is no doubt the absentees have been missed, notably James, and Ben Chilwell.

The Seagulls offer a challenge similar to Leeds, with energy, aggression and one-on-one marking all over the pitch. The Blues will aim to win the midfield tussle, control the game and find the gaps, and Jorginho, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Saul are all fresh after sitting out Saturday’s action.

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Albion await

Brighton are unbeaten in four league matches, a run that began three and a half weeks ago with the second-ever point they have earned at Stamford Bridge. Graham Potter’s team are the Premier League’s draw specialists, with the fourth-highest possession rate, second-most tackles won, and sixth-tightest defence but also the fifth-least-prolific attack.

Albion are also a tougher proposition on the road than they are at home: only five sides have a worse record on their own ground, and all of them occupy a bottom-six place. Although they have rediscovered their scoring touch recently, the Sussex side have still recorded four blanks in 10 home games.

For a team with several tall players, they are susceptible to conceding after set-plays: only Everton and Leicester have a worse track record for that this season. It does not help that the commanding presence of Lewis Dunk is absent along with fellow centre-back Shane Duffy.

Our on-loan player Conor Gallagher is the most recent player to find the Brighton net

Potter is also having to reengineer his engine room with central midfielders Yves Bissouma and Enock Mwepu unavailable. Against Crystal Palace on Friday, he opted for a three-man midfield with skipper Adam Lallana in the centre, and the Seagulls dominated their rivals in the first half without scoring (including a missed penalty).

The former Liverpool player is out with an injury sustained that evening. Cobham alumnus Tariq Lamptey, more usually a full-back, came on to play right midfield. Towering Dan Burn has moved inside in Dunk’s absence, but the purposeful Marc Cucurella has excelled from left-back.

Attacking defenders are instrumental to Potter’s approach. The Seagulls play the ball out from the back through Adam Webster, looking to supply number 10 Jakub Moder, who aims to involve the widemen. Three attacking players – Neal Maupay, Leandro Trossard and Alexis Mac Allister – have contributed 15 of their 20 goals, or 75 per cent.

Late goals

The average timing of Chelsea’s top-flight goals this season is 51 minutes (the third earliest behind Man City and Liverpool), with 51 per cent of the Blues’ strikes coming in the second half.

Brighton’s split of goals is more marked: 43 per cent first half and 57 per cent second, and only three teams have found the net more times after the 80th minute than Albion: City, Villa … and Chelsea.

The Seagulls have salvaged nine points from losing positions, five of them with late strikes (including their first ever goal at the Bridge in December). Interestingly, only one of the seven matches involved was at the Amex.

Premier League goals 80+ minutes
Man City93+6
Aston Villa87+1
Crystal Palace76+1
West Ham78-1

The state of play

Chelsea have now played all four league matches against Liverpool and Manchester City and, after tonight, five of our six remaining fixtures against current top-10 teams will take place at Stamford Bridge.

With a varied number of postponements handed out it is helpful to gauge the state of play by looking at maximum potential points for each individual club in the top half of the table.

Maximum possible points
PPtsMax pts
Man City2256104
West Ham223785
Man United203286

Cobham reset

Chelsea’s long run of starting 11 including at least one Academy graduate came to an end at Man City with the total on 199 but is likely to begin again tonight.

The sequence began on 2 May 2019 when Andreas Christensen and Ruben Loftus-Cheek were in Maurizio Sarri’s Europa League semi-final line-up against Eintracht Frankfurt. The club’s all-time record is 1,609 successive matches between 1956 and 1988.

Loftus-Cheek in the semi-final first leg in Germany in 2019

Premier League fixtures (all BT Sport)

Burnley v Watford 7.30pm
Brighton v Chelsea 8pm

Leicester v Tottenham 7.30pm
Brentford v Man Utd 8pm

Premier League 2021/2022
1Manchester City21172253134053
5West Ham United20104637271034
6Tottenham Hotspur1810352320333
7Manchester United189453026431
9Wolverhampton Wanderers187471314-125
10Leicester City187473133-225
11Crystal Palace205872930-123
13Aston Villa1971112530-522
16Leeds United194782137-1619
19Newcastle United1918101942-2311
20Norwich City192413842-3410

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