Brighton vs Chelsea Preview: Can the Seagulls spoil Potter’s return?
Brighton will be looking for their first victory of the Roberto De Zerbi era when they welcome back a former manager in the form of Graham Potter.
The last few weeks have been difficult for the Seagulls, with Italian manager Roberto De Zerbi still unable to secure his first win as Brighton boss. In their last match, the Albion found themselves on the end of a 3-1 defeat at the Etihad, a result which would provide Brighton with their third defeat in five games. The south coast side currently sit ninth in the league table, having slipped by one place as a result of their defeat in the North- West.
However, last weekend provided some positives for the Seagulls ahead of their encounter with Chelsea, with Leandro Trossard’s second half strike ending a run of three matches without a goal. Alongside this, the Albion demonstrated that they are still more than capable of competing against so called ‘top six’ sides, an important factor if they are to challenge Chelsea this weekend.
There is also great reason for Brighton supporters to be encouraged by the form of Leandro Trossard. The Belgian winger has been in fine form for the Seagulls this season, having scored six goals in eleven league appearances. In his last match, Trossard proved to be one of the stand- out players on the pitch, clawing Brighton back into the game with a low driven strike past Ederson early on into the second half. Alongside this, Trossard has proven his capability of scoring against Chelsea in the past, having scored in a 3-1 home defeat against the blues back in September 2020. Therefore, if Brighton are to end their winless run this weekend, it is crucial that top scorer Trossard is included.
With regards to team selection, Roberto De Zerbi will be aware that he will once again be unable to call on Kairo Mitoma. The Japanese winger picked up an ankle injury in Brighton’s 2-0 defeat away to Brentford two weeks ago, an injury which has ruled him out of Brighton’s last two matches. Speaking after Brighton’s 0-0 draw with Nottingham Forest, Brighton boss Roberto De Zerbi said that "There is a problem. I think he [Mitoma] can come back in 10-15 days. I think after that he can play with Brighton and after that will be the World Cup." Therefore, it appears unlikely that Kairo will be granted a cameo against Chelsea.
In similar fashion to the Seagulls, Saturday’s visitors Chelsea currently find themselves amid a mixed run of form. The Blues currently sit in fifth with 21 points to their name, a tally which is equal to Newcastle United, who currently sit in fourth. In their last match, Chelsea suffered late heartbreak as they were denied victory by an injury time equaliser from Manchester United’s Casemiro, a result which denied Chelsea from gaining a spot in the top four.
However, there have been a number of positives for Chelsea in recent weeks. The West London outfit are yet to lose a game under Graham Potter, having appointed the Englishman just over a month ago. Alongside this, victory at the Amex this weekend would set Chelsea on their way to climbing back into the top four. The Blues have a game in hand over both Newcastle United and Tottenham, both of whom currently sit above them, meaning that victory on the south coast could assist Graham Potter’s Chelsea in climbing as high as third.
Supporters of the West London side will also be encouraged by the recent form of Mason Mount. The 23- year- old has impressed in the opening few games of the campaign for Chelsea, with a combined total of four goals and assists so far this season. In Chelsea’s last away encounter, Mason Mount enjoyed arguably his best game of the season so far, scoring both goals in a 2-0 victory away to Aston Villa. However, unlike Trossard, Mount has not yet proved himself against his next opponent. The England International has never scored a competitive goal against Brighton, despite playing on a number of occasions against the Seagulls. Despite this, it is still likely that Mount will be one of the stand- out figures on Saturday given his recent form, meaning it is crucial he features for Chelsea once again.
With regards to team selection, it is still uncertain whether Graham Potter will be able to pick Kalidou Koulibaly. The Senegalese centre-back appeared to have picked up a knee injury in his sides clash with Brentford last week, ruling him out of last weekend’s home encounter with Manchester United. Speaking on the injury ahead of the encounter, Graham Potter stated that "He just felt his knee at the back end of the game against Brentford. It's not too bad, but it's too soon for him to play in this game”. However, whilst the injury was somewhat played down by Potter, it is still too early to argue whether Koulibaly will feature for Chelsea at the Amex.
As with last weekend’s encounter at the Etihad, it appears as though Brighton face yet another difficult task. The Seagulls have never beaten Chelsea in the Premier League, with their last victory over the West London outfit coming in a pre- season friendly back in August 2012. However, it would be wrong to write off Brighton just yet. The south coast side have demonstrated their capability to challenge top sides more than once this season, having put both Liverpool and Manchester City to the sword within the space of three weeks. Alongside this, the south coast side go into Saturday’s encounter with a great deal to play for. Roberto De Zerbi is desperate for his first win as Brighton boss, and his side’s supporters are arguably even more desperate for a bittersweet win over their former manager. Therefore, it goes without saying that Saturday’s encounter on the south coast has the potential to be one of the stand- out games of the season.