Chelsea return to English Premier League action, fresh from smashing seven past Grimsby Town in the Carabao Cup third round in midweek.
Brighton & Hove Albion act as the travelling party to Stamford Bridge on Saturday in what will be The Blues’ fourth consecutive home fixture in all competitions.
Both dugouts have different looks from the previous campaign; Frank Lampard’s insistence on youth has guided Chelsea to 11th with an equal record of results (W2, D2, L2), whilst Graham Potter’s switch from Swansea City has seen The Seagulls sink to 15th on six points from six games.
This particular fixture has very little in the way of history, the clubs having only faced off on 10 occasions since 1933: Brighton & Hove Albion were winners on that day but have not tasted victory since.
Below is a glance into the last Chelsea wins over their opponents from the South Coast.
03 April 2019 – Chelsea 3-0 Brighton & Hove Albion
Under the lights at The Bridge, all the stars seemed to align for Maurizio Sarri, an occurrence that was extremely rare throughout his brief tenure in charge.
His increasingly strained relationship with the Chelsea fans was given a welcome boost as the Italian handed Callum Hudson-Odoi has first English Premier League start. Olivier Giroud and Ruben Loftus-Cheek were also handed rare opportunities in the league but showed no signs of frostbite in a totally dominant display.
Of course, it would be the 18-year-old Hudson-Odoi with a hand in the opener, a delightful low cross that picked out Giroud at the near post for only the Frenchman’s second league goal of the season.
Sarri’s side were in cruise control but were thankful for the second upon the hour to settle any lingering nerves from past performances. Talisman Eden Hazard’s typically tantalising run and finish, supplied by Loftus-Cheek, took The Belgian’s domestic tally to 14.
Roles were reversed as Hazard picked out the English midfielder and the player went on to net with a sublime strike that nestled in the top corner; Loftus-Cheek had never scored and assisted in the same game before that match.
Chris Hughton’s dishevelled squad managed just one shot on target and 31% possession, proof on how one sided the affair became. Chelsea moved up to fifth with the three points as Brighton & Hove Albion sat three places above the drop zone.
16 December 2018 – Brighton & Hove Albion 1-2 Chelsea
This ended as much tighter affair; however, the result ultimately ended in Chelsea’s favour and stretched their unbeaten run against Brighton & Hove Albion to nine.
Following a midweek UEFA Europa League tie with MOL Vidi, Sarri made 10 changes to his starting XI, Willian the only player to keep his place. This freshness allowed The Blues to take an early advantage over their hosts, Hazard at the heart of everything in the first half.
Within 20 minutes, he found Pedro with a delicate pass as the Spaniard was in full stride, his tap in made easy by the timing of the delivery. The home side then gifted the second, and ultimately the decider, as Leon Balgoun’s loose pass was seized upon Willian.
Provider turned scorer, Hazard picked up from Willian’s interception and began his assault from just over the halfway line. After sieging the Brighton & Hove Albion back line, he coolly dispatched past Matt Ryan into the bottom corner.
That ended a stretch of eight games without a goal but took his assist tally to nine, the most in Europe’s top five leagues.
Solly March did pull one pack for the visitors with 35 minutes remaining and applied pressure on The Blues but were unable to find an equaliser. Dale Stephens did leave a lasting mark on Hazard, ending the Chelsea forward’s afternoon early with a strong challenge that thankfully didn’t leave lasting damage.
That took Chelsea to 37 league goals, their highest total at this stage of a season since 2014/2015, clinching the title under Jose Mourinho. It also meant they remained in fourth position, avoiding a run of three consecutive away games without a win.
20 January 2018 – Brighton & Hove Albion 0-4 Chelsea
Chelsea racked up their joint highest margin of victory over The Seagulls at the Amex Stadium thanks to another heroic showing from that man Hazard.
Antonio Conte was The Blues boss on this occasion, into his second term after guiding them to the title in 2016/2017, whilst Chris Hughton was still holding onto his job (both would be sacked within the following year 18 months).
Once again it was the swiftness of Chelsea’s start that wrapped up the victory, as Hazard (his 100th in league football) and Willian both netted with less than 10 minutes on the clock.
The latter’s goal was mesmerizing to watch, a combination of flicks involving the pair and Michy Batshuayi before the Brazilian finished emphatically. Upon viewing, it was hard to believe that The Blues had been on a run of three goalless draws, scoring just three times in five games.
Brighton & Hove Albion battled back to their credit and deserved to get at least one on the scoresheet, denied by a combination of the woodwork and Willy Cabellero, standing in for Thibaut Courtois. For all his saves, the keeper was lucky not to concede a penalty after clearly fouling Ezequiel Schelotto.
As the ruthless nature of the division goes, Chelsea added two more without reply in the second period. Willian passes to his partner in crime, letting Hazard steal the show once again. In trademark fashion, he drove towards Mat Ryan’s goal, evading defenders with ease, adding a tidy finish to match. That made 102 English Premier League goal contributions since his signing from Lille in 2012 (65 scored, 37 assisted), putting him behind Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba in Chelsea’s all-time list.
Victor Moses bagged the fourth moments from the final whistle to move Chelsea into third and stretching their unbeaten streak to 12 matches.
By Nathaniel Kay