Chelsea face a difficult test on New Year’s Day as they travel to Brighton and Hove Albion at lunch-time. The Blues have been inconsistent, but they are likely to benefit from playing away from home. Frank Lampard’s side have had real trouble at Stamford Bridge, with their best football being played on the road. Meanwhile, they will be coming up against an inconsistent Seagulls’ team. Although Graham Potter oversaw a win at the weekend, their recent form hasn’t been great and they can struggle to capitalise on their good performances. Both teams will see this as an opportunity to get three points.
This has been seen as a year of transition for Graham Potter at Brighton. It was an ambitious appointment that carried a lot of risk, but the early signs have been positive. In fact, the club have bought into the coach so much that he has already received a new long-term contract. There is a belief that he is destined to manage at the highest level and it will be in matches like this that he can really catch the eye. Tottenham have already been beaten on the South Coast this season. Brighton will believe that they can deliver a similar result against Chelsea.
The Blues have created their own problems in recent weeks with three successive league defeats at Stamford Bridge. This has allowed Manchester United to move within four points of Chelsea, meaning that their place in next season’s Champions League is far from secure. That said, their resilience was clear at the weekend, as they managed to come from a goal down to beat local rivals Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium. It was a key result that underlines the progress being made by Frank Lampard. However, they need to start being more clinical in matches against the rest of the league and a win on New Year’s Day could be the start of that.
Neal Maupay has been involved in eight Premier League goals this season, which is more than any other Brighton player.
At the weekend, there were nine yellow cards in the match between Arsenal and Chelsea. This is the highest total for a match this Premier League season.
The festive season has seen midfielder Aaron Mooy improve his performance level. It has taken some time for the Australian to settle in on the South Coast, but he is now emerging as one of the most important players in the squad. It was noteworthy that he was one of the few to start both matches in the last seven days, which suggests that Potter shares that assessment. His quality has become obvious over the last couple of matches. At the weekend, he scored an excellent goal and played an incisive through ball to set up the move for Brighton’s first. Mooy has been moved into a number ten role and he is thriving with the attacking freedom that he has been afforded. Against Bournemouth, he attempted four shots and created five chances during the game. It was one of the best individual performances of the weekend and he will be the key man against Chelsea. The Blues have been criticised for being open in their own defensive half. If they are on Wednesday, Mooy can make them pay.
There were some worries about the England international following a dry spell in front of goal, but he got back on the score sheet against Arsenal and he could be set for another strong run in the coming weeks. Throughout his career, Abraham has been a streaky player. He has often turned one goal into three or four in successive weeks and he will be looking for a similar run going into 2020. The past 12 months have been excellent for the young striker. He has achieved promotion with Aston Villa and broken into the Chelsea first team. It would be a surprise if he wasn’t to make the England European Championships squad. At the halfway stage of the season, he has contributed 12 goals and three assists in the Premier League. The 22-year-old will be hoping to make a statement, with the target being to get more than 20 by May. He is the major goal threat that Brighton need to be wary of.
Brighton have managed to get through the festive fixtures without many injury concerns. Solly March is closing in on a return, but this fixture will come too soon for him. Jose Izquierdo remains a long term absentee.
Christian Pulisic is hoping to be back in time to feature on the South Coast. Meanwhile, Reece James and Marcos Alonso are doubts for the trip. Emerson Palmieri is unlikely to start after being withdrawn in the first-half against Arsenal.
This could be one of the best matches to be played during the week, with Brighton having an exciting style of play that will unsettle Chelsea. In the return fixture, the Blues managed to win with relative ease, but it would be a surprise if they got a similar result on Wednesday. The Seagulls have gone toe-to-toe with top-six teams this season and they will be looking for another statement performance to kick off 2020. Chelsea have been inconsistent recently, but they do benefit from this fixture being away from Stamford Bridge. An entertaining score draw could be the best bet ahead of the game.
Brighton 2-2 Chelsea