Chelsea continue their hunt for a top four finish during the week as they welcome Brighton and Hove Albion to Stamford Bridge. This is the rearranged fixture that was due to take place on the weekend that saw the Blues lose in the Carabao Cup final. There was a potential crisis brewing in the aftermath of that, but that has been avoided by the club. Although they managed to deal with the situation, the position of Maurizio Sarri remains uncertain and it is obvious that the precarious atmosphere is impacting on the on-field matters.
The Blues may have avoided defeat against Cardiff on Sunday, but their performance wasn’t convincing. They had to rely on an offside goal to get them back on level terms against the relegation-threatened team. The performance was reminiscent of many Chelsea away performances under Sarri and the lack of progression has to be considered a worry. The team selection was puzzling, as the Italian chose to rest N’Golo Kante and Eden Hazard. The latter came on to help turn the game on its head. This season remains alive for the club, but the poor displays are a huge concern.
Brighton will have been celebrating Chelsea’s two goals on Sunday, as they continue to slide towards the relegation zone. Their five-point cushion should give them some comfort ahead of the run-in, but their terrible 2019 form means that they can’t be expecting to stay up at this stage. There have been enough reasons to believe that Chelsea are vulnerable at the moment, therefore the visitors need to attack this game with a positive game-plan. Little is expected from them and that can sometimes provide the best environment in which to play.
- Cesar Azpilicueta became the 14th Chelsea player to score in the Premier League this season. Only Manchester United have had more.
- Despite their defeat, Brighton attempted 15 shots without scoring against Southampton. They have only attempted more shots without scoring on two separate occasions in the Premier League.
It has been a season of learning for N’Golo Kante as he has been utilised in a new role. Although he is considered one of the best ball-winning midfielders in Europe, the Frenchman has been played in a more advanced box-to-box role. Supporters will believe that it isn’t his best role, but he remains a hugely important player for the team. His contribution of three goals and four assists underlines how he has developed the attacking side of his game. He continues to impress without the ball, as he has averaged 3.3 ball recoveries per game. There is some method to Sarri’s decision to use Kante in this fashion as it allows Jorginho to play in front of the back four. The Italian international is crucial to the way that the coach wants to play. It remains to be seen if he is given time to effectively implement the style, but the two midfielders are starting to thrive in the current system. It is the other parts to it that are the big concerns.
Brighton are now reaching the end of their second season in the Premier League and Glenn Murray remains their most reliable goal threat. The striker has enjoyed an excellent twilight to his playing career, but this is an area that needs to be looked at if the Seagulls do stay above the bottom three, as he won’t be around forever. The 35-year-old has contributed 11 goals, which has helped the team to the position they are in. Without the ageing frontman, they would be in a very perilous position. During their stint in the top-flight, Murray has regularly scored against the big teams and he will be the danger for Chelsea to keep an eye on. The home side haven’t been without fault in defence, which will give Murray a lot of confidence heading into the match at Stamford Bridge.
Davide Zappacosta is closing in on a return, although he is unlikely to feature against Brighton. Eden Hazard and N’Golo Kante will be hoping to return to the starting eleven. Ruben Loftus-Cheek will be looking to start following his winning goal against Cardiff City.
Florin Andone and Pascal Gross are both doubts for the visitors. It would be a huge boost if they were passed fit, especially the latter. The Seagulls are a much better team with the German in it.
This looks like it should be a home win. They haven’t been great lately, but Chelsea should have more than enough to beat Brighton at Stamford Bridge. This is an opportunity for the Blues to improve their standing in the league table and they can’t afford to drop points at this stage of the season. For the visitors, it is an opportunity, but they have shown little to suggest of late that suggests they are capable.