Premier League 17/18 Week 32: Brighton vs Leicester City – Lineups, Preview and Prediction
The Seagulls take on the Foxes as Brighton look to make a final push for safety against a side hoping to have just turned a corner
15:00 BST, Saturday 31st March, Amex Stadium (Brighton, England)
Chris Hughton’s side were unfancied before this season getting underway, however, they’re above both other newly promoted sides and 6 points above the relegation zone. With three-quarters of their league victories coming on home soil and 4 successive victories at the Amex stadium – including their win in the FA Cup – they look like a team playing with the handbrake off.
Trying to put the skids on Brighton’s current charge is a side who have just ended a run of 5 games without a win. Claude Puel’s Foxes are sitting in 8th position just 3 points behind Burnley. With qualification for next season’s Europa League through a 7th-placed finish still a distinct possibility, Puel will be keen for Leicester to finish this season strongly as he makes plans for his first full campaign in charge next time around.
Last Time Out
Manchester United 2-0 Brighton & Hove Albion (FA Cup)
Brighton put up a spirited display but were ultimately taught a lesson in clinical finishing as the home side scored with both of their shots on target. While Brighton were starved of possession (39%) for much of the match, they often looked the more incisive team as they pushed to try to make things happen when given the chance.
Jürgen Locadia was one of the better players wearing the blue and white stripes in what was only his second start for the club, however, he could not convert any of the chances which his general play had deserved. The other Brighton forwards made much less of an impact on the game and despite their industry and enthusiasm, the Seagulls were out-muscled by a smarter, if uninspired, Manchester United side.
Leicester City 1-2 Chelsea (aet) (FA Cup)
Leicester took last season’s Premier League champions to extra time before they slipped out of the FA Cup with their heads held high. That both Chelsea goals came from individual errors made defeat harder to swallow for Leicester who had looked the better side for large parts of the match.
When Álvaro Morata met Kelechi Iheanacho’s loose pass and opened the scoring in the dying seconds of the first half, it was the first real opening Chelsea had seen in the game. Vardy restored parity after the break after earlier missing an easier chance but the Foxes could not force a second despite the momentum of the game being with them in the closing stages of the 90 minutes.
Kasper Schmeichel then raced off his line only to be beaten to the ball at the end of the first half of extra time, providing a simple goal for Chelsea to win the tie. There was further encouragement for Leicester during the final 15 minutes when Fousseni Diabate came from the bench and added verve to their attack but the Foxes could not outwit their opponents as the final whistle brought defeat.
Leonardo Ulloa is illegible to face his parent club and Anthony Knockaert is still suspended following his red card against Everton while Izzy Brown (knee) and Steve Sidwell (back) are both injured and unavailable for Chris Hughton this weekend. There are also doubts about the fitness of Dale Stephens which could see Beram Kayal continue in central midfield for the Seagulls.
Leicester City Lineup
Both Daniel Amartey (hamstring) and Matty James (Achilles) are unavailable for selection this weekend with Kelechi Iheanacho also unlikely to start due to a hand injury. This could see a return for Demarai Gray with Riyad Mahrez moved centrally behind lone-striker Jamie Vardy.
Key Battle: Glenn Murray (Brighton) vs Jamie Vardy (Leicester City)
The battle of English strikers could well determine the outcome of this match as both forwards come into the fixture in fine form. Murray has peaked at the tender age of 34, scoring 6 goals in as many home games since the turn of the year. While it hasn’t been enough for him to force his way into Gareth Southgate’s England squad, England’s loss will be Brighton’s gain as Murray will be fully recharged for this weekend.
An English striker who did represent his country this week was Vardy. Although he failed to touch the ball during his 22-minute cameo (plus 3 minutes of stoppage time) against Holland on Friday night, he’s also returning to form at club level. With 4 goals from the Foxes last 5 away games in the Premier League, Vardy proved his movement and awareness could get him a goal for England in their match against Italy and will hope for more of the same on the South Coast this weekend.
A learning curve
Having been roundly beaten 2-0 by Leicester in the second game of this season, the progress the Seagulls have made since then is highly commendable. That day in mid-August saw Brighton exposed to a ruthlessly efficient Premier League side who bounced back from an opening day defeat with a commanding performance.
Since then, Brighton have acquitted themselves wholeheartedly to their task, playing to their strengths in defence, teamwork and old-fashioned effort. While their football may not be the most expansive style gracing the Premier League, they’ve proven themselves hard to beat and exceeded most people’s early expectations, especially following their second loss in as many games last August.
8 Games remaining
Leicester’s 34-year-old captain, Wes Morgan, has seen his form slowly ebbing away over the last two seasons as time has slowly caught up with the man Claudio Ranieri nicknamed Baloo (after The Jungle Book’s gentle bear).
The end of this season could well usher the end of an era for a player who has given his all at the club for just over 6 years now. With players such as Aleksandar Dragovic and Yohan Benalouane already in the squad, there are potential replacements at Puel’s fingertips, however, one of the French manager’s main priorities this summer will be to find a replacement for a cornerstone of the Foxes defence.
Prediction: Brighton & Hove Albion 1-1 Leicester City
Although Brighton need the points more than their visitors this weekend, Leicester will be no pushover as Puel continues to overhaul the Foxes into a team of his own design. With both Vardy and Mahrez back in form, the Seagulls will have a tough afternoon but have got the defensive acumen to resist the Foxes attacks and a striker in Murray capable of nicking a goal for them. While a win will be the aim, a draw won’t be a devastating result for Brighton and will set up a big clash with Huddersfield in the following fixture.