Chelsea’s midweek 2-0 UEFA Champions League loss to Real Madrid has all but put an end to their hopes of another season of European success, and the club is still in turmoil as they resume Premier League (PL) play. As the Blues have now failed to score in each of their previous four games in all competitions for the first time since 1993 (D1, L3) – their longest such drought since 1981! -, returning to the continental stage in any capacity next year calls for a substantial improvement.
In spite of interim manager Frank Lampard’s assertion that “special things can happen at Stamford Bridge,” Chelsea has only won one of its past six home PL games (D3, L2), scoring just twice in that span. The Blues have gone eight league games without scoring in the opening period at the Bridge, which would be the longest streak in the Premier League era.
Although Brighton has already got another apology from PGMOL for the decisions that went against them in the 2-1 loss at Tottenham last week, they return to the capital having suffered their first away Premier League loss since October. Due to his dismissal, head coach Roberto De Zerbi will not be on the sidelines as the Seagulls attempt to maintain their top-six finish hopes.
Although De Zerbi’s first victory as Brighton manager came against Chelsea, the Italian will be aiming to keep his team focused because they will play Manchester United in the FA Cup semifinal the following week, which could be a distraction. With Brighton having accrued 22 more points on the road than any other side in the division this year, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Seagulls win all three points given the opportunity to snap a three-match losing streak in the Premier League in London.
Raheem Sterling, a winger for Chelsea, has scored four goals in eight head-to-head matches against Brighton (W7, L1), and he could be the one to put a stop to his team’s scoring drought. In 34 games this season (G7, A7), midfielder Pascal Groß has already contributed to 14 goals for the visitors.
Kalidou Koulibaly, a center back for Chelsea, limped off the field against Real Madrid with a hamstring injury, and Lampard has revealed that the Senegal international will miss “weeks” of action. Armando Broja (knee) is gone for the season, while Carney Chukwuemeka (knock) is questionable.
Benoit Badiashile, Noni Madueke, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and David Datro Fofana, who were all ineligible to play in the Champions League, will also be available for selection against Brighton as will Thiago Silva, Cesar Azpilicueta, and Mason Mount, who all returned to the matchday squad in midweek following periods on the sidelines with injuries.
With Mount, Denis Zakaria, Conor Gallagher, and Ruben Loftus-Cheek all in contention to start in center-midfield alongside Enzo Fernandez and Mateo Kovacic, N’Golo Kante is at risk of being removed from the starting lineup as Lampard looks to manage the Frenchman’s minutes after only recently recovering from a serious hamstring injury.
Kai Havertz, who scored against the Seagulls earlier this season, might be called up to join Joao Felix and Raheem Sterling on the field if Lampard decides to swap formations and start three attackers.
Levi Colwill, who is on loan from Chelsea, is ineligible to play against his parent club for Brighton, and Adam Lallana (thigh), Jeremy Sarmiento (ankle), and Jakub Moder (knee) are still out injured. A few unknown players will need to be evaluated before the journey to West London, according to De Zerbi.
Colwill, who started against Spurs, won’t be available, thus Adam Webster will probably be called up to the starting lineup to partner captain Lewis Dunk at center defense.
Tariq Lamptey, a former Chelsea academy player, has missed the last six games across all competitions due to a knee injury and is still questionable. Joel Veltman is anticipated to start at right defender in Lamptey’s place.
Star wingers Mitoma and Solly March are expected to remain in the starting lineup, and one of Evan Ferguson or Danny Welbeck is expected to lead the line. In-demand midfielders Moises Caicedo and Alexis MacAllister are also expected to keep their spots in the starting lineup.
Possible starting lineup for Chelsea
Kepa, James, W. Fofana, Silva, Chilwell, Kovacic, Fernandez, Mount, Sterling, Havertz, and Felix.
Possible starting lineup for Brighton & Hove Albion
Steele, Veltman, Webster, Dunk, Estupinan, Caicedo, Gross, March, Mac Allister. Mitoma and Ferguson.
We predict: Chelsea and Brighton & Hove Albion draw 1-1
Chelsea’s well-known difficulties in front of goal have slowed their progress throughout this season, but they might have more success attacking a Brighton team that has given up in 12 of its 14 Premier League away games.
Nevertheless, Stamford Bridge is expecting a tightly contested match between two clubs that can ill-afford to lose any more points in their bid to earn European football for the upcoming season, and the results on Saturday may end up being shared.