15:00 GMT, Saturday 24th February, Amex Stadium (Brighton, England)
Amongst the tangled web that has become the bottom half of the Premier League table, these two sides currently find themselves separated by a single point.
Brighton will feel they have the advantage due to strong home form that has returned eight points from a possible fifteen since mid-December. Swansea, however, will point to a growing momentum since the arrival of Carlos Carvalhal that has them unbeaten away from home and picking up four wins from his seven games in charge.
Having defeated the Swans in each tier of the English Football League which includes their only Premier League encounter earlier this season, Brighton will hope to add more historic misery on their opponents this weekend.
Their inability to score this season is also compounded by four goalless games from the teams last five meetings, however, and Swansea will be confident they can jump over their rivals in the table before Saturday evening.
Last Time Out
Brighton & Hove Albion 3-1 Coventry City (FA Cup)
Chris Hughton praised his team’s application after they worked tirelessly to dispatch League Two side Coventry and set up a tie away to Manchester United. It was Jurgen Locadia who stole the headlines scoring the opening goal only 15 minutes into his club debut. The Dutch striker should arguably have already been on the scoresheet by then, having hit the post in the fifth minute.
Loan-signing Leonardo Ulloa also claimed a goal in his first start for the club since returning from Leicester last month. With centre back Connor Goldson the other player to score for the Seagulls, it was notable that each goal was headed home from an accurate cross.
The wing-play from Brighton proved to be the biggest difference between these two sides as a professional display ensured the home side avoided any potential embarrassment to a team who had previously surprised Premier League outfit Stoke last month.
Sheffield Wednesday 0-0 Swansea City (FA Cup)
Carvalhal was unable to guide his present team to a win over his former as the Swans played out an entertaining but goalless draw with the Owls. Having drawn both previous games in this season’s FA Cup and fielding a weakened side which had six changes from their recent Premier League match, it was perhaps no surprise that the Swans struggled to find a killer blow.
They were, however, the better side despite lacking a cutting edge for most of the game. The second half substitutions of Nathan Dyer and Jordan Ayew did provide some much-needed spark in attack, something which the replaced Tammy Abraham and Luciano Narsingh had failed to provide.
Despite Carvalhal’s wish for this match to finish with a penalty shootout, the teams must now compete again on Tuesday for the right to enter the sixth round.
Steve Sidwell (back) and Jiri Skalak (ankle) continue to be absent for Hughton who otherwise has a full squad to select his team. As a manager who likes to rotate his playing squad, there could be several changes from the side which started against Coventry with record signing Jurgen Locadia likely to be pushing for a starting berth and a Premier League debut following his goal in the FA Cup.
Swansea City Lineup
Swansea will still be missing Leroy Fer (Achilles), Wilfried Bony (ankle), Renato Sanches (hamstring), Leon Britton (groin) and Angel Rangel (calf). Andre Ayew has recovered from his hamstring injury and could push his way into the starting eleven to partner his brother Jordan in attack. Alfie Mawson is expected to be fit in time for kick-off following a knee injury suffered during the warm-up in last weekend’s FA Cup match.
Key Battle: Jurgen Locadia (Brighton) vs Alfie Mawson (Swansea)
With Glenn Murray in blistering form of late, Hughton is fully expected to start the 34-year-old at the tip of the Seagulls attack after resting him last weekend. Behind him, he could well choose to deploy his new signing, Locadia, whose pace and movement should compliment the player in front of him.
While Locadia is unlikely to last the full 90 minutes having been injured since mid-December, he could provide an instant impact again to give his side the advantage before making way in the second half.
Having hobbled from the pitch during a routine warm-up in Sheffield, Mawson gave the fans and his manager a major scare. The central defender has been pivotal to the Swan’s campaign and Carvalhal’s assertion that his defender is one of the league’s best does not appear misplaced.
Swansea have been unable to keep a clean sheet on the road in any of the last ten league matches. A shut out on Saturday would be more than welcome for a defence which has been steadily improving under the Portuguese manager.
Strike it rich
The addition of two strikers at the club in January means Chris Hughton now has five centre forwards to choose from, despite consistently deploying just one striker in his starting lineup.
While Glenn Murray is reaching the end of his career, he is also the in-form choice making his inclusion in the team incredibly difficult to resist. Closely behind him is Locadia, the club’s record signing at a fee believed to be around £14m. The Dutchman’s versatility will benefit both him and his team as he can play a number of roles for his new side.
With the final month of the season promising to be an action-packed affair, Hughton’s side will face five league matches, four of which being against teams at the top of the table. This newly developed strength in depth could well prove decisive for a side who have lacked firepower for much of the season to date.
The temptation for Carvalhal to field both Ayew brothers in attack this weekend is likely to be too strong to resist. Having brought Andre Ayew on for the final half-hour against Burnley a fortnight ago, his impact gave the Swans much more threat in the final third of the pitch.
The extra emphasis on attack led Carvalhal to liken his decision to putting all of the meat on the barbecue. It also proved a wise move with his side earning a late win over the Clarets to move them further away from the bottom of the table.
Whether the lure of serving up a tasty treat for Swansea fans from the off this weekend remains to be seen, but the brothers are likely to connect on the pitch at some stage against Brighton and it could well prove a winning combination.
Prediction: Brighton & Hove Albion 1-0 Swansea City
This match is sure to be a blood and thunder affair with both clubs desperate to scramble to safety at the expense of a rival. While recent form can largely be ignored in just such an occasion, Brighton’s solid home form throughout the season coupled with Swansea’s failure to win 10 of their last league games away from home suggests it will be the Seagulls flying high at the final whistle.