Roberto De Zerbi’s men will look to bounce back against Wolverhampton Wanderers after back-to-back defeats in all competitions that have threatened to derail their promising season. The defeat on penalties against Manchester United in the semi-final of the FA Cup ended their hopes of reaching the first final since 1983. Even more worrying was the second-half capitulation against lowly Nottingham Forest three days later.
Wolves are up next for Brighton and Hove Albion, and another defeat would certainly end their Champions League aspirations, leaving the Seagulls 11 points behind fourth-placed United.
Last 5 games
Julen Lopetegui’s men have steered clear of the relegation zone with three wins and just one defeat in their last five Premier League games. Their last win came against Palace in what was a resilient defensive performance from Wolves. In the attack, they relied on Joachim Andersen’s own goal and a penalty from Sam Johnstone to find goals, but they were always going to come out with something from the game because of their backline which kept the third clean sheet in their last four games.
Brighton, meanwhile, were humbled by Forest, despite their early dominance during the mid-week fixture. Facundo Buonanotte’s opener and Brennan Johnson’s penalty miss should’ve given Zerbi’s side more confidence to extend their lead and take home all three points. But instead, they conceded three goals to Steve Cooper’s men to lose their third game in their last five.
Loss: 1-3 vs Nottingham Forest
Loss: 0-0 (6-7 on penalties) vs Manchester United
Win: 2-1 vs Chelsea
Loss: 1-2 vs Tottenham
Win: 2-0 vs Bournemouth
Win: 2-0 vs Crystal Palace
Loss: 1-2 vs Leicester City
Win: 2-0 vs Brentford
Win: 1-0 vs Chelsea
Draw: 1-1 vs Nottingham Forest
Head to Head
If we go solely by the head-to-head result, predicting the winner would be as assured a pick as a coin toss. The last five meetings have seen two wins for each side and a draw.
The last clash at Molineux saw Wolves cancel out Adam Lallana’s opener through Goncalo Guedes. Ruben Neves put the hosts in a driving seat later in the first half from the spot. But the game turned on its head after Nelson Semedo’s sending-off.
Ten-man Wolves failed to contain Brighton’s threat and lost all three points in the 83rd minute from Pascal Gross’s fifth league goal of the season.
Danny Welbeck is likely to be fit to start after making a substitute appearance against Forest on the back of an injury scare against his former club, Manchester United, in the FA Cup. Adam Lallana (thigh), Jakub Moder (knee), Tariq Lamptey (knee) are all sidelined.
Evan Ferguson and Joel Veltman missed recent games, but ahead of the encounter, the Italian boss gave fans a positive injury update. He said: “I think and I hope Ferguson can play on Saturday – and Veltman. But we are able to win with this squad.” If Veltman returns to action, Pascal Gross will move into the midfield, and Alexis Mac Allister will push higher up the pitch to sit behind the striker.
Long-term misses Chiquinho and Sasa Kalajdzic aside, Lopetegui is leading Wolves in this game without any new injury doubts.
Goalkeeper – Steele
Defenders – Veltman, Dunk, Colwill, Estupinan
Midfielders – Gross, Caicedo, Mac Allister (10)
Forwards – March, Welbeck, Mitoma
Goalkeeper – Sa
Defender – Semedo, Dawson, Kilman, Bueno
Midfielders – Hwang, Neves, Lemina, Nunes
Forwards – Cunha Costa
Where Will The Game Be Decided?
The game’s outcome most likely depends on which team deals better with the opposing striker.
Diego Costa’s physicality and Matheus Cunha’s off-the-ball movement have been Lopetegui’s system’s main threat. Similarly, Ferguson (if he starts) or Welbeck’s hold-up play has opened plenty of avenues for Gross and Mac Allister all campaign to make runs towards the box and rattle the net.
As always, in the case of Brighton, how the opposing full-back defends to nullify Kaoru Mitoma’s dribbling will also have a big say on the final scoreline.
Wolves would also have to make sure their midfield block remains compact and doesn’t give in against Brighton’s build-up that attracts the opposition to exploit the space behind. But in Hwang Hee-chan’s they also have an interesting outlet to take advantage of the space left behind by aggressive Brighton left wing-back Pervis Estupiñán. Another option for the former Real Madrid manager is to add an extra midfielder (João Gomes) in the starting XI to stop Brighton’s midfield from dictating the play.
Brighton are hurting after their recent results. A home game against 13th-placed Wolves, whose last win on the road came against Southampton in February, provides them a perfect opportunity to change the tide. Anticipating Zerbi’s men to cut through that Wolves’ low block and bag at least three goals. Brighton 3-1 Wolves.
The kickoff is at 14:00 GMT Saturday at the Amex.
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