Recent shared history means there is a familiar feel to today's game, and here club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton look ahead to the next instalment of Chelsea against Brighton...
Chelsea take on Brighton at Stamford Bridge for the second time this season, the first being a third round Carabao Cup tie decided by Nicolas Jackson’s close-range finish.
The Blues had a free week following the setback at St James’ Park, while the Seagulls swooped to a narrow victory over AEK in Athens on Thursday, hence the Sunday date for this Premier League fixture.
Brighton and Hove Albion were granted freedom of the city by their local council this week but Chelsea, keen to return to winning ways, will not afford them the same luxury at Stamford Bridge.
Mauricio Pochettino made no secret of his disappointment that his players were not in the right mode at St James’ Park, especially straight after the kick-off in each half.
International breaks hand the same disruptive experience to many clubs (including last weekend’s hosts), but the Blues have been winless and far less effective in the games following them.
The late-returning Moises Caicedo was held back last weekend but will surely start against his former team-mates. It will be vital to match the Seagulls’ physical effort all over the pitch, but especially in this battleground area, where Brighton are missing personnel.
After weeks when the team was coalescing well, Newcastle punished sloppy defending, and our defensive record has rapidly slipped from third best to 11th. Benoit Badiashile returned well from injury, but Poch is still trying to find the best blend at the back while Ben Chilwell remains sidelined.
While Raheem Sterling is hoping to score in a third game running, his fellow forwards need to put poor showings on Tyneside behind them. Leading Blues marksman Jackson has already netted against Brighton in pre-season and the Carabao Cup, though, and must fancy his chances again.
The only team to have taken the Seagulls apart this season are Villa. All six of their goals came from rapid, direct attacking after winning the ball in midfield, rupturing Roberto De Zerbi’s set-up – the kind of play we saw from Chelsea during the win at Tottenham.
Reece James’ suspension for his sending-off and Malo Gusto’s unavailability leaves Pochettino with a decision to make at right-back, while this game may come too soon for the likes of Romeo Lavia and Christopher Nkunku to make their long-anticipated bows.
Opposition scout – Brighton
Roberto De Zerbi’s claim that Brighton have the mentality to dig deep and secure results despite adversity will be tested again this weekend. The Italian’s depleted side secured their passage into the knockout rounds of the Europa League on Thursday despite missing a host of regulars.
At the Bridge he has to cope without Lewis Dunk and Mahmoud Dahoud, key men in the team’s spine. Both are suspended following recent red cards.
On-loan Barca winger Ansu Fati, who has accrued four goals and an assist this term, and Cobham graduate Tariq Lamptey were added to the Seagulls’ injured list this week. Already on the list are Adam Webster and Pervis Estupinan (both defenders), utility man Solly March, and forwards Julio Enciso and Danny Welbeck.
With so many players indisposed it felt like a big win at Nottingham Forest. And it was: actually their first in the Premier League since Bournemouth’s visit back in September. Those are the only times in six attempts the Sussex side have come from behind to win.
Another issue for head coach De Zerbi has been their reduced ability to create and convert chances on the same scale as earlier in the league campaign, their last four games all being among the six lowest for expected goals.
The Seagulls play the same attacking style home or away, and have conceded as well as scored in each top-flight fixture. Ten of their goals have come from substitutes, the joint-most along with Arsenal, but no team has made more errors leading to goals than their four.
Even depleted they have impressive individuals in former Blues centrist Billy Gilmour, Ivory Coast’s dribbling winger Simon Adingra, marksman Evan Ferguson, and chief chance-creator Pascal Gross.
Chelsea vs Brighton – the history
The Seagulls are the first side Pochettino’s team will have played three times, following a seesaw 4-3 win stateside in pre-season, and a morale-boosting 1-0 home success in round three of the Carabao Cup. Defender Jan-Paul van Hecke was sent off for two bookable offences during the US friendly.
Brighton’s Premier League visits have been disappointing since the most recent Blues victory in September 2019 (our ninth successive league success against them) sealed by a penalty from Jorginho and Willian’s deflected near-post strike. The South Coast side have since registered two draws and a win.
In April 2019, thanks to Oli Giroud, Eden Hazard, and Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Chelsea won comfortably 3-0. That maintained a spotless record at the Bridge against the Sussex side stretching back to an unanswered David Speedie goal on New Year’s Eve 1983 in the old Second Division.
A 2-0 at home over Christmas 2017, thanks to Alvaro Morata and Marcos Alonso, made the Blues the first team since Aston Villa in 1913 to remain unbeaten in 13 consecutive top-flight matches on Boxing Day. At that time the Seagulls had scored just one goal in seven meetings between the two sides across all competitions, over a period of 40 years.
Sterling’s beauty at St James’ Park was only the third direct free-kick goal in the Premier League this season. If he can add more such rarities before the season’s close it will buck a trend for Chelsea, who in the previous two seasons managed one solitary success, and in 2020/21 scored none at all.
It’s a far cry from previous decades when two, three or four set-plays found their target thanks to specialists such as Eden Hazard, Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard. In 2006/07 we scored six such goals and, by nature coming against a defending team bowing to pressure, they suggest a team fully exploiting all the tools in its locker.
Drawing first blood in an elite football match is so important. Premier League stats this season show teams doing so have gone on to take an average of 2.19 points from the game, while the conceding sides have harvested a mere 0.63.
Newcastle last weekend was the ninth of our 13 matches in which the opponent scored first; Luton (10) and Sheffield United (11) are the only top-flight clubs who have suffered this more often than the Blues.
Chelsea have gone on to win only two of those and draw two, losing five. On the three occasions we scored the opener, two became wins and one a draw.
No sleep till Christmas
December serves up eight matches for Chelsea, involving a Carabao Cup quarter-final and two midweek rounds of the Premier League, and several difficult aways trips.
As is well documented, some will have more breathing space over the three-fixture festive programme than others. Brighton will enjoy the most generous recovery time between their three games – 287.5 hours – while Chelsea must grapple with the least: just 143.5 hours.
The partnership between the Premier League Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign is ten years old. And as the self-proclaimed ‘carefree’ club, this weekend offers fans the chance to savour the equality and diversity across our various teams and among our fellow Blues: we’ve won it all and we’ll celebrate it all too.
More needs to be done to make all areas of the game far more welcoming to anyone from any background, and at this weekend’s match the rainbow symbol will be prevalent, showing our continued work towards that aim.
Before today’s kick-off the club will remember former Chelsea Junior, first team captain and Stamford Bridge season ticket-holder Terry Venables, who sadly died last week.
Those present at the ground will be asked to join in a minute’s applause to celebrate his life and achievements, which included skippering Chelsea to our – and London’s – first ever League Cup final success in 1965.