13:30 BST, Sunday 29th October, Falmer Stadium (Brighton, England), Sky Sports
With three wins from their last six games, Brighton are somewhat buoyant as they head into this South Coast clash. Chris Hughton’s side have grown in stature over recent weeks and home games have proved to be a great source of strength with only an opening day defeat against Manchester City to blemish their home form. With the South coast rivals not having played each other since 2012, Hughton will be hoping for a repeat performance that saw the Seagulls take a deserving 3-0 win.
With three wins, three draws and three defeats, the Saints have achieved a fine balance of mixed results in their league campaign so far. More importantly, they’ve started to find their goal-scoring touch again with half of their season’s goals coming in the previous three games. While three of their eight goals have come from the penalty spot, Mauricio Pellegrino’s men will need to be more creative if they’re to break down their neighbours in this early clash on Sunday.
Last Time Out
West Ham 0-3 Brighton (Premier League)
A stinging victory over West Ham gave Hughton’s side their first away win of the season in deserved and spectacular style. An early goal forced West Ham to carry the impetus in the first half and it was a barrage of attacks that Brighton needed to deal with.
Shane Duffy was yet again the main reason the Seagulls held firm as he and Lewis Dunk repelled attack after attack. Many of these lead to a ball crossed into the box, however, the defenders restricted a possession-heavy Hammers side to only two shots on target throughout the game.
While the team played exceptionally well as a whole, Glenn Murray was the other notable star for Brighton. Despite a lack of mobility, his presence was unnerving for the West Ham defence and his accuracy was faultless with each of his shots being on target. This display was in stark contrast to his previous outing and it now leaves Hughton a big selection dilemma ahead of this weekend’s fixture.
Southampton 1-0 West Brom (Premier League)
With only a single win from their six previous matches coming into this game, it was an important victory that was much-needed to quantify the Saints gradual improvements of late. Once again the Saints were good in possession in the central areas, Mario Lemina once again shining with a 94% passing accuracy to keep the Saints in charge of the ball.
While the game itself was lacking in any real sense of excitement, the winning goal more than made up for this deficiency. After dancing around five players, Sofiane Boufal placed the ball into the bottom corner of the net from the opposite edge of the box. Having only been on the pitch for four minutes, he certainly had a dramatic impact on the game.
Chris Hughton is once again withou Beram Kayal (leg), Steve Sidwell and Sam Baldock (calf) all on the treatment table. With Tomer Hemed available after his suspension, Hughton will have to decide between him and the in-form Glenn Murray as to who starts in attack this weekend.
With only the peripheral figure of Jérémy Pied unavailable this weekend, Mauricio Pellegrino will have plenty of options ahead of him for the local clash. While a similar starting lineup to the previous games is likely, Sofiane Boufal could find himself included from the start after scoring a wonder-goal from the bench last time out.
Key Battle: Jose Izquierdo (Brighton) vs Nathan Redmond (Southampton)
Chris Hughton has used the club’s record signing sparingly so far this season. With only two league starts and three fleeting appearances from the bench, Jose Izquierdo is still to play a full game for the Seagulls. His sumptuous goal against the Hammers looks set to give the Columbian winger his home debut this weekend though, with the impressive and reliable Solly March being elbowed out of the way to make space in the team.
Another winger looking to make an impression on the game this weekend is Nathan Redmond. The forward has been playing below his own high standards for the majority of this season, a dip which begun around the same time he was called up into the England squad earlier this year. If he’s to re-establish himself in the National side before next summer, he will need to deliver for his club once again.
Hard Work is Rewarding
A look at the bottom half of the Premiership table and you will find that very few points separate the teams – with the exception of Crystal Palace. Of the teams that remain, they can be split into those that have truly applied themselves physically in their games and those that have not expended as much energy. Unsurprisingly, the more industrious sides are the teams who are currently placed higher in the developing structure.
In claiming their victory over the Hammers, Brighton’s players put in more of the hard yards than their counterparts. Four of the top six players to cover the most distance were Seagulls, with Dale Stephens covering an outstanding 7.6 miles on the large playing surface. Brighton also took the top three positions for individual sprints by the players and it was this work ethic which significantly helped Brighton cruise to victory at the London Stadium.
One of the most alarming reasons behind the stuttering form of the Saints this year has been the demise in form of their trusted Number One. Fraser Forster was a constant source of reliability at the back in recent years yet his form and confidence has seemingly deserted him this term.
With the England jersey clearly up for grabs at the moment, Forster will need to improve his handling if he’s to take his chance of a place in the squad at the World Cup. While form is temporary and class is permanent, this short blip will need to be overcome soon or a lot more confidence could yet be drained from the Beast.
Prediction: Brighton 1 – 1 Southampton
Chris Hughton is more likely to send his players out on an attacking foot at home the Saints, yet it will be the away team who controls possession and crafts the most chances from the game. The Saints inability to score is becoming an albatross around their neck and, while they can’t score a wonder goal or a penalty every week, they need to find a way through what will be a well-organised Brighton team. With only a point separating the teams in the table, a point each seems to be the most likely outcome from this meeting.
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