Antonio Conte will still be fuming about Wednesday’s match with Norwich when this match begins at Saturday lunchtime. The controversial FA Cup replay saw red cards for Alvaro Morata and Pedro, meaning the Spanish pair are suspended as Chelsea look to end a draw-dominated start to 2018.
The Blues squeaked through that replay on penalties, but it did mean another 120 minutes of action for a squad that – as Conte keeps saying – is a bit thin. Brighton had no such fixture, though Chris Hughton’s side have their own form issues.
The hosts for the televised weekend-beginning fixture have taken just seven points from their last 10 Premier League matches. More worryingly, they have scored a not-so-grand total of four goals in those matches, which is unsurprisingly the worst in the league over the stretch. The Seagulls are 9/10 to fail to score again.
If Brighton fans are here searching for positives, they can take a look at the goals conceded. They have let fewer goals in that every team outside the top seven, and one less than Arsenal. Pair that with Chelsea’s difficulties in the final third of late, and it could be a surprisingly good afternoon.
From then on, things are a bit bleaker. Hughton’s side have only one win in 12 league matches, and, while Chelsea are not creating enough to be as scary an opponent as Liverpool or Manchester City, the Blues have kept clean sheets in five of their last six Premier League matches.
The visitors might be pleased to be without Morata for this one, though. He has been in a Fernando-Torres-esque run of form, and another opportunity for Michy Batshuayi could be the change that ignites this Chelsea attack, though the Belgian struggled in midweek. Batshuayi, despite not being Conte’s favoured option, has a good goal scoring record, he is priced at 7/2 to open the scoring.
Ross Barkley could make his Chelsea debut at the Amex Stadium. The midfielder recently signed from Everton is not fit to play from the start, but will probably be available from the bench given the suspensions suffered in midweek. For Chelsea fans feeling particularly optimistic about Barkley, he is 3/1 to score anytime.
Even after their dire run, Brighton are a tough team to break down. That’s testament to Hughton’s organisational skills. Hughton has long been an underrated manager, and he deserves plenty of credit for what he has done to keep Brighton in contention for safety at this point. Chelsea will not have an easy time picking up three points this weekend, and might, as they often do, end up relying on a piece of Eden Hazard magic.
Hughton needs funds if Brighton are to stay up. The lack of attacking threat will allow Chelsea to commit too many bodies forward, I think, and should see the Blues eventually get the breakthrough. It could be a tense afternoon for Chelsea fans, though, who will be well aware that defeat could see them drop out of the top four.
The visitors are nowhere near their best form at the moment. I still think that the quality of Hazard and Cesc Fabregas should be enough to snatch a narrow win - 888sport are currently going 24/5 for a 1-0 away win.
TIP: Chelsea to win 1-0 @ 24/5
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*