After signing for Brighton and Hove Albion in August 2016, Shane Duffy has become a vital ingredient in The Seagulls’ success in the past 17 months.
In his debut season with Chris Hughton’s side, the defender featured 31 times, scored twice and kept 14 clean sheets as the club earned their first ever promotion to the English Premier League since its inception in 1992.
Based on average match rating during the 2016/2017 campaign, his impressive performances saw him end the season as the fifth best player in the Sky Bet Championship.
This season, Duffy has continued to shine with the English Premier League debutants. The 26-year-old has featured in 22 of The Seagulls’ 23 league matches this season and he has managed to keep seven clean sheets in that time; shutouts against the likes of Burnley, Watford and West Ham United, currently leaves them in 16th, three points clear of the relegation zone.
Meanwhile, defending English Premier League champions Chelsea have appeared to be in a blip in recent weeks, but one man who has remained consistent is vice-captain Cesar Azpilicueta. Like Duffy, the Spaniard has featured in 22 of the Blues’ 23 league matches this season and kept 11 clean sheets in the league.
Ahead of Chelsea’s trip to the AMEX Stadium to face Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday lunchtime, we look at how the two international representatives of the Republic of Ireland and Spain respectively have compared in England’s top flight this season.
As previously mentioned, the duo have both featured in all but one of their respective teams’ league matches this season, but Azpilicueta has played 17 more minutes than his Irish counterpart.
Chelsea’s Spanish international has scored one league goal and provided six assists for last season’s title winners, whilst Duffy has failed to provide any direct goal contributions for Brighton and Hove Albion in the current campaign.
Duffy’s sole absence this season came against Watford after he was suspended due to picking up five yellow cards, meanwhile Azpilicueta’s well-disciplined aurora has seen him receive just one yellow card in the league this season.
The Blues defender, known as ‘Dave’ by people around the club and supporters, has a passing accuracy average of 87.1%, whilst Duffy has completed almost seven percent fewer of his passes this season. One of Duffy’s key attributes is his aerial prowess, winning an average of five aerial duels per match, the sixth most of anyone in the division. Azpilicueta has only managed to win two battles per match during his top-flight outings.
The Spaniard was named as the Man of the Match during the Blues’ 1-0 victory over Manchester United, something that Duffy has been unable to do this season.
Both players have been fantastic this season and both rank in whoscored.com’s top 40 English Premier League players this season. Out of a possible 10, Duffy has averaged a rating of 7.17 this season, placing him 39th in the league rankings. Azpilicueta’s status as one of the league’s best defenders has not failed him during the current campaign, with an average score of 7.26 making him the 22nd best player in the league and fifth best defender this term.
Can either of these highly-performing defenders guide their side to three points on Saturday afternoon?
By Jonty Colman