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[monks data]
Apr 3, 2019 at 7.45pm UK at Stamford Bridge
Attendance: 38,593


Giroud (38'), Hazard (60'), Loftus-Cheek (63')
FT(HT: 1-0)

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

Sports Mole previews Wednesday evening's Premier League clash between Chelsea and Brighton, including predictions, team news and head-to-head records.

After getting their campaign back on track with a controversial win over Cardiff City at the weekend, Chelsea are going in search of back-to-back victories when Brighton & Hove Albion visit Stamford Bridge.

The Blues required a couple of late goals to overcome the Bluebirds in South Wales, leaving them firmly in the mix for a top-four finish, while Brighton are six points clear of the dropzone.


Chelsea's Ruben Loftus-Cheek celebrates scoring a late winner against Cardiff City in the Premier League on March 31, 2019© Reuters

After an underwhelming first eight months in West London for Maurizio Sarri, Chelsea's travelling supporters let the Italian know exactly what they thought of his tactics and team selection during Sunday's match against Cardiff.

The Blues, starting without N'Golo Kante and Eden Hazard, failed to register a single shot on target in the first half and found themselves a goal down entering the final six minutes of the game.

Thanks to a terrible refereeing call, Cesar Azpilicueta popped up with a rare goal to spark a dramatic comeback that was completed by Ruben Loftus-Cheek's header in added time.

Sarri was not pleased with his side's performance, though, as they very nearly became the first top-six side to drop points against one of the division's bottom three. If not for some questionable decisions from the officials, Sarri could easily have been out of a job.

As drastic as that sounds, Chelsea supporters called for their manager's head during the second half and the ex-Napoli boss is surely living on borrowed time.

Just a second away Premier League win of 2019 does at least give Chelsea something to build on, but anything less than victory against Brighton back on home soil - and a convincing one at that - and the same old questions will be asked.

Chelsea have fared better in front of their own fans, losing just one Premier League home game so far this season - against Leicester City in December - and they have kept six clean sheets in their last nine at Stamford Bridge.

However, Wolverhampton Wanderers came within seconds of claiming a victory there a little over three weeks ago, and Southampton also left Stamford Bridge with a point in early January.

With Arsenal facing Newcastle United at the Emirates Stadium on Monday evening, the Blues could well enter this match three points adrift of the top four - their minimum target for the season.

Sarri still has the Europa League as a safety net, with Slavia Prague to come over two legs in the quarter-finals, though a failure to reach next term's Champions League will surely cost the Italian his job. This match, then, has taken on even more importance in a season that could still end in one of two ways for the Londoners.

Recent form in Premier League: LWWDLW
Recent form (all competitions): WWDWLW

Brighton & Hove Albion

Brighton players celebrate scoring against Derby in the FA Cup on february 16, 2019© Reuters

Back-to-back league wins for Brighton ahead of the international break should be enough to keep them above the dotted line, with one more victory - possibly two - from their remaining eight matches likely to be enough to hold off the three sides directly below them.

Saturday's 1-0 loss to south coast rivals and fellow strugglers Southampton leaves Chris Hughton's men looking a little nervously over their shoulders, but 18th-placed Cardiff - whom they still have to face at home - have a six-point deficit to make up over the remaining six weeks of the season.

Ideally for Hughton and his players, they will pick up that win they are after at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday - as unlikely as that may seem - as it will allow them to focus solely on the FA Cup.

Albion's remarkable quarter-final win at Millwall earlier this month, when recovering from two goals down at The Den with two minutes of normal time to play, leaves them just one game away from the Wembley final.

The problem for the Seagulls, though, is that Manchester City are their semi-final opponents. With just three days between the trips to Stamford Bridge and Wembley, Hughton must decide whether to rotate his side or keep things the same.

Brighton won their last away Premier League game, overcoming rivals Crystal Palace 2-1 at Selhurst Park on March 9, but they have failed to win consecutive league games on the road since November 2017.

Albion have also lost all nine of their Premier League away games against the big six sides since earning promotion in 2016-17, scoring just two goals in those matches.

Hughton has his work cut out if he is to mastermind a shock midweek victory, then, but if he pulls it off then Brighton will have a spring in their step ahead of their semi-final with Man City, which ultimately takes priority this week.

Recent form in Premier League: DLLWWL
Recent form (all competitions): WLWWWL

Team News

Eden Hazard during a Chelsea training session on March 13, 2019© Reuters

Sarri has a near-fully fit squad to choose from, with fringe players Ethan Ampadu and Davide Zappacosta his only two fitness doubts.

Hazard and Kante were only deemed fit enough for a place on the bench against Cardiff, but they are both expected to return to the side on Wednesday.

Belgian forward Hazard has been directly involved in four goals in his last two league appearances against Brighton, scoring three and assisting another.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek may be rewarded for his late goal in South Wales with a start in this one, giving Ross Barkley a breather following a hectic schedule over the past few weeks.

Elsewhere, Callum Hudson-Odoi may finally get his first Premier League start as Sarri hinted that the youngster will feature more heavily in the remaining weeks of the season, while Emerson Palmieri and Olivier Giroud could come in if the hosts opt to rotate.

Brighton are expected to still be without Florin Andone and Pascal Gross, meanwhile, as they are struggling with a groin and hamstring injury respectively.

Solly March was a second-half sub against Southampton and is likely to return in place of Alireza Jahanbakhsh, giving him some minutes ahead of the clash with Man City next weekend.

With an eye on that City match, Jurgen Locadia and Beram Kayal - fitness depending - are also in contention to start.

Chelsea possible starting lineup:
Kepa; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Luiz, Emerson; Kante, Jorginho, Loftus-Cheek; Hudson-Odoi, Giroud, Hazard

Brighton & Hove Albion possible starting lineup:
Ryan; Montoya, Dunk, Duffy, Bernardo; Propper, Stephens, Bissouma; Knockaert, Murray, March

Head To Head

Chelsea have won all seven of their league meetings with Brighton - only Wimbledon against Bournemouth (8/8) have a better 100% win record against an opponent in English Football League history.

Albion have lost all four of their away games against Chelsea in all competitions, failing to score each time.

The Blues have won their last nine matches in all competitions against Brighton. They last won 10 in a row against an opponent between 2008-14 (vs. Bolton Wanderers).

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We say: Chelsea 2-0 Brighton

Brighton have won just one of their 11 midweek Premier League games, losing half of those, with their solitary win coming against Palace earlier this season. Chelsea may have stuttered of late, earning their only win in three league games through controversial circumstances against Cardiff, but they never tend to have any problems against Albion and we are backing them to prevail here.

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Ross Barkley in action for Chelsea on March 17, 2019
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