Brighton v West Ham
Saturday May 15, 20:00
Brighton's top-flight status confirmed
Brighton have secured an unprecedented fifth successive season in the top-flight with Premier League safety rubber-stamped on Monday evening as Burnley won at Fulham. With three games to play, this is the earliest the Seagulls have confirmed survival in their four seasons following promotion.
Graham Potter's side are hoping to finish with a flourish after a disappointing 2-1 defeat at Wolves last time out. Albion went ahead through Lewis Dunk and seemingly in control of proceedings before Dunk's straight red card soon after the interval handed the initiative to the hosts. Brighton were second-best thereafter eventually succumbing to defeat.
Neal Maupay's petulance after the final whistle led to a second sending off meaning Potter will be without his skipper and top scorer for Saturday night's showdown. Albion haven't tended to fare well without Dunk in the side - the hosts have taken just three points in the seven Premier League games he's missed since promotion was earned in 2017 (W0-D3-L4).
West Ham hopes fade
West Ham's hopes of securing an unlikely top-four finish suffered a damaging blow last weekend as the Hammers were turned over 1-0 by Everton at the London Stadium. David Moyes' men have tabled 11 triumphs from 18 Premier League outings coming into the contest but failed to fire, landing zero shots on-target despite 69% of the ball.
Their best chance of the first half saw Said Benrahma's wait for his first Premier League goal continue as he headed over from a Pablo Fornals cross. After the interval, Fornals had a shot blocked before spreading the play to Vladimir Coufal, whose low shot came back off the inside of the post and substitute Jarrod Bowen was unable to steer the rebound goalwards.
West Ham struggled to play through Everton's organised defence and Moyes admitted his side didn't do enough to warrant top honours but felt a defeat was unjust, saying: "We kept it well, passed it well but just fell short in the final third. Overall, this was a game of very few chances; we had lots of the ball and certainly didn't deserve to lose."
West Ham have faced Brighton more often without ever winning than they have against any other Premier League opponent, a sequence of seven games (W0-D4-L3). The last four meetings have all ended all-square, although the Seagulls have never failed to score in those seven showdowns with the Hammers since returning to the top-flight.
Remarkably, Brighton 2.962/1 boast the division's second-best Expected Goals (xG) process as hosts, and Albion have recently started to turn those promising performances into points, picking up victories in three of their last seven league dates here (W3-D2-L2). The Seagulls have also claimed clean sheets in six of home Amex encounters this calendar year.
West Ham 2.568/5 have returned a rock-solid W16-4-L3 record when facing teams outside the Big Six this season - those defeats came in home and away ties with Newcastle, as well as last week's reverse with Everton. Meanwhile, the Hammers have pocketed eight away triumphs this term, only winning more (10) away games in two previous top-flight seasons.
Brighton's fixtures have tended to be relatively tight affairs. Albion's outings have averaged 2.20 goals across the campaign with fewer than half paying out for Over 2.5 Goals 2.0621/20 backers. Even so, Both Teams To Score 1.824/5 has proven to be the right selection in seven of the Seagulls' 12 tussles with top-seven dwellers, firing only three blanks of their own.
West Ham have been good fun to follow this season, particularly away from the London Stadium where 12/17 Premier League matches have featured Over 2.5 Goals and 10/17 matches have paid out in the Both Teams To Score column. The visitors have scored in 13 of those games, averaging an impressive 1.53 goals per-game on the road.
With that in mind, plus the prospect of Brighton playing with more freedom following confirmation of their Premier League survival, I'm anticipating an enjoyable encounter from the south coast with BTTS the standout selection at 1.824/5.