Chelsea will be hoping for their first victory of 2018 in normal time when they face a trip to the south coast on Saturday.
Standing in their way are English Premier League debutants Brighton and Hove Albion who are currently 16th in the league table, three points clear of the relegation zone.
A nine-man Chelsea side picked up their first victory of the calendar year on Wednesday evening when they defeated Sky Bet Championship side Norwich City 5-3 via a penalty shootout in their FA Cup Third Round replay, after drawing 1-1 in 120 minutes of football at Stamford Bridge.
After a hectic run of games and a lack of discipline shown in midweek, Antonio Conte has a reduced squad to choose from for the match at the AMEX Stadium at the weekend.
Here is how we predict that the Italian will set out his Chelsea side for The Blues’ meeting with The Seagulls on Saturday.
Predicted line-up (3-4-3): Thibaut Courtois; Cesar Azpilicueta, Andreas Christensen, Antonio Rudiger; Davide Zappacosta, N’Golo Kante, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Marcos Alonso; Willian, Michy Batshuayi, Eden Hazard
Predicted substitutes: Willy Caballero, David Luiz, Victor Moses, Danny Drinkwater, Ross Barkley, Charly Musonda, Kenedy
Despite being the hero in Wednesday’s shootout win over Norwich City, goalkeeper Willy Caballero is set to be dropped to the bench to allow Thibaut Courtois to return to the starting XI.
After suffering an injury against Leicester City last weekend, club captain Gary Cahill is unlikely to be available for selection again, which could see Antonio Rudiger step in for him alongside Cesar Azpilicueta and Andreas Christensen in a three-man defence.
To rest Victor Moses for Wednesday’s Carabao Cup semi-final clash against Arsenal, Davide Zappacosta could be given his first league start since The Blues’ defeat in December against West Ham United.
An injury to Cesc Fabregas could see the French duo of N’Golo Kante and Tiemoue Bakayoko start in the centre of midfield together, whilst Spaniard Marcos Alonso is likely to return to the starting XI at left wing-back.
Spanish duo Pedro and Alvaro Morata were both dismissed in extra time during the cup victory over Norwich City and will be suspended for the trip to Brighton and Hove Albion, which may give Conte a slightly unusual look to his attacking set-up.
We predict that Conte will revert to a 3-4-3 formation, with Willian and Eden Hazard likely to start either side of Michy Batshuayi up front, who would be making his first league start since October, when The Blues lost against Crystal Palace.
The absences of Cahill, Fabregas, Pedro and Morata means that opportunities will arise on The Blues’ bench. January signing Ross Barkley is set to be involved for the first time after arriving from Everton earlier this month, whilst the likes of Charly Musonda and Kenedy may also be named amongst the substitutes.
Score Prediction: Brighton and Hove Albion 1-2 Chelsea
By Jonty Colman