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Preview: Brighton & Hove Albion vs. Chelsea - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Sunday's Premier League clash between Brighton & Hove Albion and Chelsea, including predictions, team news and head-to-head records.

Brighton & Hove Albion host Chelsea at the Amex Stadium on Saturday in what is both sides' penultimate Premier League outing before Christmas.

The visitors go into the game off the back of a 2-0 victory over champions Manchester City last weekend, while Brighton have also impressed this season and sit comfortably clear of the relegation zone approaching the halfway point of the campaign.


Brighton & Hove Albion manager Chris Hughton watches on during his side's Premier League clash with Watford on August 11, 2018© Reuters

Brighton boss Chris Hughton will go into the festive period satisfied with how the 2018-19 campaign is going so far, with his side sitting relatively pretty in 13th place and already more than halfway to the 40-point mark.

Eleven points separate them from the relegation zone, whereas that gap was only four at the same stage of last season, when Brighton went on to beat the drop relatively comfortably.

It was their home form which kept them in the division in 2017-18 - they would have finished bottom had only away form counted - and the same is true so far this campaign, with Hughton having turned the Amex into something of a fortress.

Tottenham Hotspur are the only visiting team to have won there in the Premier League so far this term, and the Seagulls have now lost just one of their last 10 including the tail end of last season.

Brighton are averaging two points per game in front of their own fans, and even their usual goalscoring troubles seem to go out of the window for home matches having only failed to score in one of their last 14 in the league.

It is a record which may be challenged in the coming weeks, though, as Brighton's next four home league games all come against teams currently in the top seven - Chelsea, Arsenal, Everton and Liverpool.

The Seagulls have only suffered five home league defeats in total since their promotion in 2017, but four of those have come at the hands of members of the 'big six', so they will need to buck that trend if they are to pull off a surprise result this weekend.

Another concern for Hughton may be an over-reliance on set pieces; 13 of Brighton's 19 goals have come via that route this season, and last week they only managed their first shot on target in the 93rd minute against struggling Burnley.

Burnley ended up running out 1-0 winners in that match to end an eight-game winless streak, and while the odds may be against his side this weekend, Hughton will want to see a response to that disappointing result.

A win could lift Brighton level on points with seventh place depending on how other results go over the weekend, but they will also be acutely aware that it is far too early to rest on what has been a good start so far.

Recent Premier League form: LLDWWL


Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri expresses his frustration at being downed by Wolves on December 5, 2018© Reuters

Chelsea went into last weekend's Premier League clash with Manchester City knowing that defeat would effectively end their title hopes once and for all.

There is still an eight-point gap to the new leaders Liverpool, but by dethroning what had been an all-conquering Man City side Chelsea proved that they are capable of beating any team on their day, and also that they are not quite as easy to nullify as recent defeats to Tottenham Hotspur and Wolverhampton Wanderers might have suggested.

Launching a title tilt will be a secondary concern to consolidating their position in the top four right now, with only goal difference currently separating them from London rivals Arsenal either side of the Champions League dotted line.

Spurs are two points better off in what is developing into an intriguing three-way London tussle for two places, and Chelsea will know that any slip-ups - of which there have been a few lately - could leave them playing catch-up in that race.

After winning their opening five games of the campaign, the Blues have since won just five of the next 11 and are this weekend looking for back-to-back league wins for the first time since the beginning of November.

A heavily-changed side were held to a 2-2 draw by Videoton in the Europa League on Thursday, although Chelsea had already sealed their progress as comfortable group winners before their trip to Budapest.

While rotation has been the name of the game in Europe, Chelsea have only used 20 players in the Premier League so far this season, which is the second-fewest in the league behind Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Sarri has quickly identified his preferred XI, then, but it is one which could see loyal club servants such as Gary Cahill and relatively neglected young players such as Ruben Loftus-Cheek seek pastures new in January as a result of lack of opportunities.

As long as the Italian is producing results his method will prove right, of course, but his side travel to the Amex looking to end a two-match losing streak on the road.

Chelsea have not lost three successive Premier League away games since March and had only lost one of their previous nine prior to the back-to-back losses at Tottenham and Wolves.

Coupled with Brighton's impressive home form, it makes for an intriguing contest on Sunday as Chelsea look to go into next week's EFL Cup quarter-final on the back of a win.

Recent form: WDLWLW
Recent form (all competitions): LWWLWD

Team News

Eden Hazard in action during the Premier League game between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Chelsea on December 5, 2018© Reuters

Eden Hazard is one of a host of first-team players who was rested in midweek and expected to come back into the starting lineup for this match.

The division's assist-leader is looking to create a goal in four successive Premier League matches for the first time, and he could start through the middle ahead of Olivier Giroud or injury doubt Alvaro Morata having carried out that role against Manchester City last weekend.

Mateo Kovacic joins Morata in being a doubt for this game, meaning that either Ross Barkley or Loftus-Cheek will be one of a small number of players to retain their places from Thursday.

Kepa Arrizabalaga was also given the night off in Hungary and will this weekend be looking to keep clean sheets in consecutive league matches for the first time since August 2017.

Brighton, meanwhile, will be without the suspended Shane Duffy once again, so Leon Balogun is expected to partner Lewis Dunk at the back.

Glenn Murray was only deemed fit enough for the bench last weekend but has overcome his knee injury and will be looking to add to his haul of eight Premier League goals this season, which have yielded a joint league-best nine points.

Alireza Jahanbakhsh could be ready to return from his thigh problem, while Jose Izquierdo is back in training after a knee injury and is also in contention to feature.

Brighton possible starting lineup:
Ryan; Bruno, Balogun, Dunk, Bernardo; Gross, Propper, Bissouma; Knockaert, Murray, March

Chelsea possible starting lineup:
Kepa; Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Luiz, Alonso; Kante, Jorginho, Barkley; Pedro, Hazard, Willian

Head To Head

Chelsea have won each of the last eight meetings between these two sides across all competitions, including a 4-0 victory at the Amex in January when Hazard scored twice.

Indeed, the Blues hit six goals without reply in their two meetings last season and the Seagulls have failed to score in seven of their eight successive defeats to this weekend's opponents, with their only goal in that time coming back in September 1983.

You have to go back to the very first meeting between these two sides for Brighton's one and only victory over Chelsea, which came in the third round of the 1933 FA Cup.

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We say: Brighton 1-2 Chelsea

Brighton have been strong at home this season, but Chelsea are coming into the game off the back of beating Man City and so should be full of confidence. It could be a close game, but we're backing the visitors to come away with the points.

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Who will win Sunday's Premier League clash between Brighton and Chelsea?

Eden Hazard flashes a smile prior to the Premier League game between Chelsea and Manchester City on December 8, 2018
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