Brighton will hope to make it a happy anniversary when their Amex Stadium plays host to its 150th match with the visit of Chelsea on Saturday (12:30 GMT, live on Sky Sports).
Chelsea were pretty comprehensive winners when the two sides met at Stamford Bridge on Boxing Day. Goals from Alvaro Morata and Marcos Alonso secured the Blues a 2-0 victory in a match in which they dominated possession, territory and the shot count.
Brighton have, however, generally been much stronger at home so far this season and will therefore believe they have a solid chance of securing a result this weekend. They’ve lost just twice in 11 matches at the Amex to date, and have secured 15 of their 23 points there. If they could just turn a few of their draws into wins, their survival hopes would greatly increase.
This season will see one of the closest relegation battles in the history of the Premier League. With 15 rounds to go, the whole of the bottom half of the table falls within a eight-point spread, while 18th to 11th is covered by just five points. Brighton currently find themselves three points clear of the drop zone but can expect to be involved right up until the last. The bookies currently have them at around 7/4 to be relegated from the Premier League.
Chris Hughton’s side actually have the seventh best defensive record in the division, albeit having conceded over a goal per match. Their primary problem lies at the other end of the pitch, where only bottom club Swansea have scored less than their total of 17 goals. It is that lack of attacking potency that has made it difficult for them to secure more victories.
After the defeat to Chelsea on Boxing Day, Hughton highlighted the need to strengthen his squad, particularly in attacking areas. Glenn Murray and Pascal Gross (a shrewd summer pickup from Ingolstadt in Germany) are doing their bit, but Brighton are not getting consistent output from their other forwards. There have not been any incomings so far, but the club are hopeful of bringing in at least one new forward before the end of the month.
Chelsea have already done some business by bringing in Ross Barkley from Everton and they, too, could add another striker to their ranks, with Andy Carroll a surprise name among those linked to the West London club. They are still involved in all four of the competitions they started in this season and coach Antonio Conte has asked for reinforcements to help his side through the remainder of the campaign.
In the Premier League, Chelsea find themselves locked in what, with Arsenal starting to drop away, looks likely to be a four-way scrap with Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur for the three remaining top-four spots behind runaway leaders Manchester City. The teams are currently separated by just six points, with Chelsea right in the middle, three points shy of Manchester United in second and three clear of Spurs in fifth.
Chelsea have scored five fewer goals than any of the other teams in that pack, which is perhaps why they seem so keen to add further attacking options to their squad this month. Indeed, prior to the 1-1 draw followed by a penalty shootout victory in their dramatic FA Cup third round replay against Norwich on Wednesday – a game that saw both Morata and Pedro sent off – they had been involved in three consecutive 0-0 draws in all competitions.
After a rocky start to the campaign, Chelsea’s subsequent improvement has primarily been down to a much tightened defensive unit. They have kept clean sheets in five of their last six league encounters and have conceded just six times in their last 14. They now have the joint best defensive record in the Premier League, alongside Manchester United.
Chelsea’s recent away form has been patchy but they have nevertheless recorded comfortable victories away to a number of sides in the lower half of the table so far this season. Their solid defensive unit should be able to deal with an underpowered Brighton attack, and despite some recent struggles in front of goal, they have enough quality at the other end of the pitch to see them to victory on Saturday.