Chelsea host Brighton and Hove Albion this weekend, but their focus will be fully on the second leg against Real Madrid next week. It is likely that Frank Lampard will rotate his team to ensure that they have the best chance of reaching the semi-finals of the Champions League. At the start of the season, many would have pencilled this fixture as an important one in Chelsea’s fight for top four football. In fact, it is the Seagulls that have a better chance of achieving that. Last weekend’s defeat to Tottenham was a blow, but they will want to bounce back with a win on Saturday.
Lampard will be relieved that his team only have a two-goal deficit to overturn in the week, especially after Ben Chilwell’s red card. However, it still looks a very difficult task for Chelsea, who haven’t played with fluency all season. The return of N’Golo Kante has added energy to the team, but the Blues are struggling in attack. Although the Premier League season is over for them, they need some momentum to take into their return leg with Real Madrid. They can’t afford to roll over in another Premier League game.
It has been an excellent season for Brighton, regardless of how it ends. They remain in the hunt for Europe, while they are in the semi-finals of the FA Cup. After losing many of their backroom staff and Graham Potter, it has been an impressive recovery. The seamless progress makes it look like nothing has changed and that is credit to the model in place at the club. Roberto de Zerbi will be linked with bigger jobs in the summer. The Seagulls will want to keep him, but if he does leave, supporters will have full faith in the club continuing on their current trajectory. It is rare for a Premier League to gain this trust in the modern game.
Chelsea haven’t scored a goal in their last four fixtures across all competitions.
Meanwhile, Brighton have scored 11 times in their last four fixtures.
The long-term future is uncertain for Mason Mount. His contract is entering its final 12 months this summer and Chelsea will not want to lose him on a free. It looks increasingly unlikely that he will stay at Stamford Bridge, with Liverpool among the teams that have been linked. The England international was excellent last season, but like Chelsea, he has struggled for consistency this season. It has been difficult for players to perform at their maximum due to the amount of change in the playing squad. No manager has settled on a first choice eleven and that can make consistency difficult to find. Mount has contributed three goals and two assists. Last season, he had double figures for both. At the age of 24, his career is reaching a crossroads. The interim appointment of Frank Lampard should lead to more minutes for him. He could start this weekend and it will be a good opportunity for him to remind the world of his ability.
Brighton continue to do great work in the transfer market. Kaoru Mitoma could be one of the best signings they have made in recent years. This season, he has scored seven and assisted four in the Premier League, with a goal involvement every 140.1 minutes. It is a remarkable debut campaign for the Japanese international and he will be another Seagulls player that attracts interest from bigger clubs. He is direct and likes to run at opposition defenders. As he can score goals and create clear cut chances, he is very difficult to contain. Chelsea may choose to rest Reece James for the Champions League game, which means they could be weaker down that side of the pitch. Mitoma has the quality to cause them real issues and be the match-winner for the visitors.
Kalidou Koulibaly is a doubt after limping off during the week. He is the only new absentee. Chelsea are likely to rotate their squad, which could mean starts for Mason Mount among others.
Jakub Moder is closing in on a return, but he may be not back to feature in the squad this weekend. Tariq Lamptey is out with a knee injury.
These two teams couldn’t be in different positions. Brighton are a club that are pulling together and heading in the right direction. They have been one of the most consistent teams in the Premier League this season. Chelsea continue to be in disarray and their recent woes in front of goal are a real concern. If these two sides perform like they have done in recent weeks, it should be a comfortable away win.
Chelsea 0-2 Brighton