Chelsea hosts Brighton & Hove Albion on Sunday, looking to bounce back from the disappointing loss at Newcastle. The Blues will be without their captain, Reece James, who has to serve a one-match suspension after getting sent off at St. James’s Park.
Victory over Roberto De Zerbi’s side during preseason and in the EFL Cup should provide a lot of confidence to Mauricio Pochettino. Here are three things to look for during the visit of Seagulls.
1. Team selection
As mentioned earlier, James will be unavailable for the match. Since Malo Gusto is yet to recover from his injury, the hosts will be without a recognized right-back. Since Marc Cucurella, who had played well there, has to start at left-back, Pochettino will be looking at his options.
Some players had played at right-back previously. Moises Caicedo is one among them. But in their current form, Chelsea needs him in his natural role. The next option is Axel Disasi, who had a terrible afternoon against Brentford. Ian Maatsen is the only other fullback currently available for Pochettino for Sunday. But with the Argentine’s interest in starting centerbacks at fullback, Disasi could be the one starting.
The rest of the squad should keep their place despite the heavy loss against Newcastle, with the only exception being Caicedo returning instead of Lesley Ugochukwu. However, a chance for Mykhailo Mudryk, Armando Broja, or Noni Madueke would freshen up things.
2. Players returning from injuries
Pochettino did not provide a clear answer about the availability of Christopher Nkunku and Romeo Lavia during Friday’s press conference. Nevertheless, he hinted that it depends upon Saturday’s training session, even though Lavia is unlikely to feature in the matchday squad.
The opponents, Brighton, are themselves struggling with injuries. However, they should be confident to repeat the result of this fixture from last season.
3. Team Response
Despite going behind in the first half, the players withstood Newcastle’s pressure last week before scoring an equalizer. But in the second half, everything crumbled. Eddie Howe’s side made the most of the visitor’s mistakes.
Pochettino has had a whole week to rectify things. It will be interesting to see if Chelsea concedes a third header goal in successive games after a player is unmarked inside a 6-yard box.
Finishing the chances and silly mistakes at the back continue to be a matter of concern for the West London side. The lack of improvement despite having no European midweek action will not help Pochettino in the long run.