There’s something about Albions.
We’ve managed a few narrow wins over Brighton in semi-recent history, but have also experienced plenty of chastening defeats.
In one of the more harrowing stats I’ve unearthed, the aggregate score is 16-3 over the most recent four straight losses to the Seagulls. Gulp.
Then of course there’s our abysmal record down the road against that other lot. More about that next week.
It’s about time we started doling out some pain I’d say, but as always against this oppositon, I don’t expect an easy ride.
It’s damaging to us that Hwang is away at the Asian Cup, but I’ll happily accept the trade-off with Mitoma missing for them. He has been a constant thorn in our side in the three games we’ve faced him.
As you’ll be aware I’m sure, they’re far from a one-man team. In fact, Roberto De Zerbi has probably rotated his starting XI more than any other coach in the Premier League, such is his faith in the collective group.
And overall, you’d have to say they’ve delivered, with European glory still a realistic possibility and consistent enough league form to keep them in and around the top six.
Can they keep pulling rabbits out of the hat with their blend of near-perfect recruitment and elite coaching? It’s hard to think they won’t get stung eventually if top talent keeps getting harvested by the elite, but in the age of FFP where player trading is essential for everyone, they must be in the most robust position of any top-flight club.
Last time out they came back to progress in the FA Cup with a 4-2 win at Stoke and will be nicely rested up for this one.
But others who will miss out for them on Monday (through injury and the pursuit of international glory) include Solly March, Joel Veltman, Julio Enciso, Ansu Fati and Simon Adingra – all fine players, so that’s helpful to our cause.
Our own squad is stretched by international duty and the suspension for Joao Gomes, but I expect to see a strong XI on Monday.
Dawson has to come back into the side in my opinion and then there’s a decision to be made at left-back between Hugo Bueno and Doherty as well as who plays across that front three.
Pedro must be close to getting a start now, so it should be him and either Sarabia or Bellegarde operating on the other side around Cunha. That decision might be made on a tactical basis to combat Brighton’s unique style of play.
We could really do with getting through this one unscathed with our options from the bench significantly reduced without Gomes, Boubacar, Hwang, Ait-Nouri, Fabio or Kalajdzic to call on. Four of those should be back in a few weeks, but if we aspire to greater things over the second half of the season, I think we could do with one or two additions, even if the likes of Hodge and Fraser can do a decent job in the interim.
Only Steve K was bold enough to predict a 3-0 victory in our last league game against Everton. Well done to him for that unbridled display of optimism.
There’s no reason we shouldn’t have our say in this game, but we have to respect Brighton and they’ve only lost once in the league at home this season. A draw would be a solid result for us and I’ll back us to collect that point in an entertaining, high-scoring contest – 2-2.
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Up The Wolves!