Chris Hughton’s Brighton have quietly worked their way to 15 points from 11 matches. It might only be on goal difference, but the newly promoted side are up to eighth in the table before this weekend’s matches.
Stoke sit just three points behind thanks to a surprise win at Watford and draw with Leicester. The Potters have become synonymous with the Premier League mid-table, but endured a rough start to the season and still sit just three points above the drop zone. Mark Hughes will be pleased that the pressure has eased.
At this point, though, the two teams are locked on to the same aim: avoid relegation. Brighton’s start has been solid, but, as fixtures get trickier, they must keep their points ticking over. Stoke, meanwhile, had an unenviable run of matches to start the campaign. The visitors this Monday need to keep on track after recent improvement.
Davy Propper is in line to return to the hosts’ midfield after featuring for the Netherlands during the international break. The summer signing had been struggling with a niggling injury prior to the fortnight Premier League hiatus, but he is expected to line-up in the middle two of Brighton’s 4-4-1-1.
Stoke will again be without Jack Butland after the impressive ‘keeper suffered another injury on international duty. Lee Grant will step in – and he did well last season – but there’s no doubt that it is a blow for the Potters. Peter Crouch will be optimistic of a starting berth after being effective from the bench again, while Geoff Cameron could return.
The Seagulls are a well-organised unit out of possession. With the ball, though, there is a dependence on Pascal Gross to create. Jose Izquierdo against Mame Diouf and Anthony Knockaert against Erik Pieters could provide some joy for Hughton’s men, but neither have produced on a regular basis this term.
Gross has been one of the stars of this Premier League season, and has to be picked up by Darren Fletcher or Joe Allen when he drops into midfield to link play. Gross is at 21/5 to find the net for the third time this season.
Stoke have a similar reliance. The team is short of individual magic without Xherdan Shaqiri, and really suffered without him against Bournemouth. In their 3-4-3, the Swiss international has a relatively free reign, and makes them a real threat on the break.
His inconsistency can be infuriating, but he has to receive the ball regularly in space if Stoke are to take anything from the Amex Stadium.
Although the key attackers have taken the focus so far, it may well be the back lines that determine this one. Brighton have done well to stifle opponents for much of this season, yet Stoke have suffered defensively, largely through individual error and injury.
Neither team are potent in attack, either, making a low scoring match probable. The 4/5 price on both teams to score – no – is longer than I expected. I fear that this match will have everyone bemoaning Sky’s TV selections again.
Brighton to win 1-0 could be a decent correct score punt at 11/2...
TIP: Brighton to win 1-0 @ 11/2
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*