A Blue Up North previews Chelsea’s trip to Brighton on New Year’s Day.
On the face of it, it should be a trip that all Blues fans can make with confidence. Chelsea have won 7 of their last 9 away Premier League matches, including back to back victories in North London as they ended the 2010’s proving that they are still top dogs in the capital.
And with a perfect record of 9 wins out of 9 in all their previous league matches over The Seagulls, it is a match up that most home fans won’t necessarily be looking forward to. Albion have also never won a Premier League match in the month of January, losing 5 out of 8 attempts.
But all these statistics do not show the whole picture. The Blues have found life tough trying to break down well organised teams from the lower half of the division.
Graham Potter has quietly done an excellent job since arriving at The Amex Stadium. Brighton lie 5 points above the relegation zone and, while playing some quality football, they have regularly received plaudits for their strong mentality and organisation. They have rarely been mentioned in conversations regarding the clubs who are likely to finish in the bottom 3.
Their victory of Bournemouth over the weekend emphasised their qualities and strengths. It had been their first win in 5, but their defence looked very solid, Neal Maupay was a regular threat in attack and Aaron Mooy had a stand out performance in a more advanced role in midfield.
Potter will be looking for a repeat performance from his team against The Blues and we can expect a similar line up, formation and style of play.
Meanwhile Frank Lampard is likely to make a few changes to his starting XI. The 3-4-3 formation that started at The Emirates Stadium is likely to be dropped for a 4-3-3 set up.
Cesar Azpilicueta may join fellow full backs Marcos Alonso and Reece James in being unavailable. We could well see Tariq Lamptey follow up his impressive substitute’s appearance with a first start for the first team.
Christian Pulisic has stated his availability and could well feature, while 31 year old Willian has started in all 3 festive matches. When a number of managers have moaned like crazy about the fixture list, the Brazilian has been a picture of modern professional at the peak of his fitness.
After his match winning showing at Arsenal, Jorginho is probably the first name on the team sheet and he will relish the opportunity to try to unlock the home defence.
Victory in the early kick off would see Chelsea propel themselves 7 points clear once again in 4th place. While there will plenty of speculation about The Blues’s activity in the transfer window, the current playing squad will be who continues to fly Frank’s flag for the rest of the season.
And with this being the last league match before we all embark on another FA Cup run, applying some pressure on the teams below them in the table will be just the best start for the New Year for all of us.
Written by Jon Ellis, home and away season ticket holder. Follow him on Twitter @ClitheroeBlue