For the fifth straight year, Chelsea host a home fixture on Boxing Day, welcoming Brighton and Hove Albion to Stamford Bridge for an afternoon kickoff.
Brighton have had a rather interesting first half to their inaugural season in the Premier League. While not playing the most dazzling, attractive style of football, they sit in 12th place in the table with 21 points and are over halfway to the mythical 40-point mark that often guarantees safety.
Brighton manager Chris Hughton has done well to navigate the pitfalls in the bottom half of the table. If anything, Brighton have been fairly consistent this season. Brighton’s longest losing streak this season is three consecutive matches and on only one separate occasion lost in back-to-back fixtures.
Going into Tuesday’s match at Stamford Bridge, one of Brighton’s problems is that their away form hasn’t been great. Brighton have just seven points from nine matches away from home, but more concerning is that the Seagulls have scored just five goals in away matches this season.
That doesn’t bode well for Hughton’s side as Chelsea have lost just twice at home, once to Manchester City and once to Burnley on the opening day of the season, and the Blues have conceded just seven goals at Stamford Bridge, three of which came against Burnley.
For Chelsea, manager Antonio Conte has a nearly full squad to choose from with David Luiz being the only notable absentee due to injury.
Alvaro Morata returns after serving his one-match suspension for the match against Everton last Saturday, and his arrival couldn’t be more welcome. Against the Toffees, Chelsea controlled much of the match in possession but were desperately missing a cutting edge in the final third.
By this point, it’s clear that Conte doesn’t trust Michy Batshuayi and it’s clear that Eden Hazard plays far better when he has a striker on the pitch as a reference point for the attack, so Morata’s return will hopefully make a difference in the final third for the Blues.
It better help, because in recent weeks, teams have worked out that Chelsea have real issues breaking down sides that can stay organised and compact. Aside from the Huddersfield result, most sides have set up against Chelsea to essentially keep Chelsea’s attack in front, which keeps the Blues from making runs in behind while also building additional walls of defence to limit Hazard’s influence.
Those problems against sides that sit deep were all too evident against Everton, where Sam Allardyce’s side had one or two problems with the movement of Hazard, Willian, and Pedro in the first half, but once he added an extra centre back, Chelsea found it increasingly difficult to get a clear chance on goal, despite having enough shots on target.
In Brighton, they’ll face a similar style. Brighton aren’t a side that are going to play an extensive attacking game. Hughton’s style has always been a pragmatic one and his sides give nothing away to the opposition. In 19 Premier League matches, the Seagulls have conceded more than two goals just once, in a 5-1 loss to Liverpool.
For Chelsea to get three points, they will have to do better and finding a way through a packed midfield and defence because with this match against Brighton and the upcoming match on Saturday against Stoke City, it’s important for the Blues to get maximum points from these matches to remain in position to qualify for the Champions League.