Chelsea-Brighton & Hove Albion Preview
Chelsea may be the Premier League's best rollercoaster ride of the season, but they look to continue fending off challengers for the fourth and final Champions League spot as they ring in 2020 at the AMEX Stadium on Wednesday against Brighton and Hove Albion.
The Pensioners (11-2-7) continue to be a work in progress under first-year manager Frank Lampard, with their youth providing moments of excitement as well as angst. Both were on display in Sunday's London derby at the Emirates versus Arsenal, getting goals from Jorginho and Tammy Abraham in the 83rd and 87th minutes in a snatch-and-grab 2-1 victory.
Lampard sensed his team needed a jump despite the squad rotation as part of the holiday fixture, bringing on Jorginho for Emerson before halftime to settle his side's nerves and get them involved in the match. Defender Tariq Lamptey also made his senior debut for Chelsea, introduced in the 59th minute for Fikayo Tomori.
"When we played as we did at Tottenham last week, I probably would have questioned my sanity if I had come to Arsenal and we played four at the back and it had gone that way in the first half-hour," Lampard told Chelsea's official website, also noting Arteta proved a quick study in reviewing film from Chelsea's win over Tottenham to set up his side. "For me the main thing in the first half-hour was not the tactics, it was the spirit and the fight. Arsenal were quicker, we were lethargic, they were brave, we were nervous.
"You say I was decisive but I could have made the change after 10 minutes, and not just Emerson coming off, any of the players could to change it slightly. It is hard to convey a message with your voice on the sidelines with this sort of atmosphere so sometimes it has to be a gesture."
Abraham's match-winner ended a run of four matches without a goal in league play, and six of his 12 goals in the top flight have been match-winners. He was industrious without a result in the reverse fixture, a 2-0 Chelsea win at Stamford Bridge in which he put three shots on frame and took five overall.
Lampard's side are 7-0-3 on the road, having scored 24 goals in their last nine outside the Bridge since opening the campaign with a 4-0 defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford. Chelsea, though, have kept only one clean sheet in those matches and yielded 18 goals.
Brighton and Hove Albion (6-5-9) are trying to put more distance between themselves and the relegation scrap, entering this match 14th in the table on 23 points and five clear of the drop. The tightly packed table also means the Seagulls are just three points from the top half of the standings, and Graham Potter's team picked up a vital three points Saturday with a 2-0 victory over Bournemouth.
Ali Jahanbakhsh and Aaron Mooy scored on either side of halftime for Brighton, who stopped a four-match winless run and improved to 7-1-0 when scoring two or more goals. It was Mooy's first goal since April, and the Australia international is exerting a greater influence in recent matches for the Seagulls, whose six points against Big Six sides (2-0-5) already exceeds their total for all of last term when they claimed five points in 12 matches (1-2-9).
"It was a great feeling to get off the mark for the club, we dominated large parts of the game but we needed the second goal to kill the game off," Mooy told the team's official website. "We knew we were close to them in the table before the game and that added a bit of significance to it, but we know every game in this league is tough.
"We just have to try and get better in the way we're playing in every game because if we do we know the points will come."
Potter has breathed life into Brighton's offence, which has rung up 24 goals in 20 matches after totaling 35 last season. The Seagulls have been a difficult out at home, claiming 15 points from their 10 matches while limiting opponents to 11 goals.
Chelsea have won all five matches between the sides since Brighton earned promotion for the 2017-18 season, outscoring them 13-1, and are a perfect 9-0-0 against them in league play. In the reverse fixture, Jorginho opened the scoring from the spot on 50 minutes after Mason Mount was fouled by Adam Webster, and Willian secured the three points with a goal in the 76th minute.
Updated December 30, 2019