The Big Match Tactical View: Brighton v Chelsea

With Alvaro Morata out, Eden Hazard may lead the line
With Alvaro Morata out, Eden Hazard may lead the line
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Chelsea have recorded five draws in a row - and without key attackers, there's a danger they might make it six when they head to Brighton. Michael Cox provides the tactical analysis and Alan Thompson looks at the betting....

"Brighton are likely to sit very deep and soak up pressure - no other side in the Premier League presses as little as Hughton’s men."

Brighton v Chelsea
Saturday 12:30,
Live on Sky Sports Football

Match Odds: Brighton [7.0], Chelsea [1.66], The Draw [4.0].

Chelsea's penalty shoot-out success against Norwich on Wednesday evening can't disguise their poor form - it's now five draws from five matches from Antonio Conte's side (90 minutes only), with the Blues yet to win in 2018. With home supporters growing particularly frustrated with the side's efforts, Antonio Conte might be relieved to be playing this match on the road, with a relatively short trip down to the Amex Stadium.

Conte will also be pleased to be facing a side in poor form. Chris Hughton's Brighton have managed just two points from their last five matches, and have slipped down the table towards the dropzone.

Conte selection dilemma

Conte's selection for this match will be interesting. Both Pedro and Alvaro Morata are suspended following their dismissals in midweek - both received their first booking for simulation - curiously - which leaves him with something of a headache going forward.

Morata's back-up is Michy Batshuayi, but Conte appears completely unconvinced by the Belgian and generally prefers fielding Eden Hazard upfront when Morata is unavailable. Pedro would be his natural partner, so Conte may have to field Willian in a more advanced position, with Cesc Fabregas a doubt through injury.

Conte's midfield will probably see N'Golo Kante playing the deep midfield role with Danny Drinkwater and Tiemoue Bakayoko either side, a somewhat functional trio in a side desperately lacking creativity at the moment. Indeed, the fact Hazard may be fielded upfront robs Chelsea of his creative edge, which might make Conte reconsider leaving out Batshuayi.

Marcos Alonso and Victor Moses should continue on the flanks, while at the back Gary Cahill is another doubt which should mean Cesar Azpilicueta and Antonio Rudiger playing either side of Andreas Christensen, who has replaced David Luiz as Chelsea's first-choice as the spare man at the back.

Brighton to sit deep

The hosts are likely to sit very deep and soak up pressure - no other side in the Premier League presses as little as Hughton's men. Ezequiel Schelotto will probably be favoured over Bruno Saltor at right-back, while Gaetan Bong should keep his place ahead of alternative left-back Markus Suttner. Shane Duffy and Lewis Dunk have formed a good centre-back partnership this season, and they're protected well by the midfield.

Dale Stephens and Davy Propper will command the centre of the pitch, trying to encourage Chelsea to attack down the flanks rather than through the middle. The wide players, Anthony Knockaert and Jose Izquierdo, will shuttle back into position to form a second bank of four, and Brighton will spend long periods with eight men behind the ball. With Chelsea lacking midfield creativity, breaking them down could be a problem.

Seagulls lack attacking spark

But Brighton might struggle to get goals too. Pascal Gross isn't assisting quite as much in recent weeks, while upfront Glenn Murray is a good old-fashioned penalty box striker but probably won't cause Chelsea's three-man defence too many problems. A set-piece could be Brighton's best chance of a goal, especially with the delivery of Gross.

To me, this seems like an obvious game for Under 2.5 goals. Brighton are amongst the most passive, defensive sides in the league, while Chelsea are lacking their midfield orchestrator and their first-choice centre-forward. I don't think the weekend's first televised game will be much of a spectacle.

If you can get Under 2.5 goals matched at [1.8] or better, it's just about worth backing.

The Betfair Trader's View: Alan Thompson

Heading to Brighton doesn't normally hold any fears for Chelsea, they have won each of their last seven meetings in all competitions and won all five of their league meetings. They will be keen to keep that winning record going but, with just one win in their last five away days, it may not be straightforward.

Chris Hughton's men though are decent at home having lost just one of their last 10 in the Premier League (W3 D6). Both home defeats this campaign have come against top six sides in the shape of Liverpool and Manchester City.

The match odds look to be settling more or less where I expected them to be, the only slight discrepancy is I had Chelsea at [1.6] and they are currently trading about [1.68] suggesting there is about 2.5% value in the away side. The goals markets are also falling in line with under 2.5 goals trading around [1.75] - pretty much on my tissue.

Chelsea have kept four clean sheets in their last five Premier League starts so I am tempted by the visitors to win to nil but I would be looking for a price better than [2.6]. If that is unobtainable I will be 'dutch backing' Chelsea to win 1-0 @ [6.2] and Chelsea to win 2-0 @ [8.2] in the correct score market, giving combined odds of approximately [3.5].

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