The two Albions meet on Monday evening for just the fifth time in the last 27 years with the “real” Albion looking for their first win in Sussex since 1990. More importantly, Slaven Bilić’s side are looking for their first win of this Premier League campaign.
Their opponents, managed by former Baggie Graham Potter, have played some good football this season but sit just one place and two points above Albion having failed to turn impressive performances into points. The most obvious example of that was the match at the Amex against Manchester United, a game that Brighton dominated but somehow managed to lose 3-2 thanks to a penalty that was awarded by the VAR after the final whistle had been blown.
The Seagulls only Premier League victory this season was an admirable 3-0 win at St James’s Park in game 2 but the defeat to the Red Devils was followed by a loss at Everton and, last time out, a draw with rivals Crystal Palace, another game they probably deserved to win.
Brighton will certainly present a very different test to that offered by Burnley last time out, with Potter’s team likely to offer a greater attacking threat and a desire to keep the ball on the ground. Frenchman, Neal Maupay, is their top scorer with four goals in the league this campaign, but it is youngster Tariq Lamptey that has stolen the headlines with some impressive performances as a right wing back.
Potter favours three at the back with Lewis Dunk and Adam Webster joined by either Dan Burn or Ben White, who impressed on loan at Elland Road last season. However, the skipper, Dunk, will not be available for this match having been sent off in stoppage time in the Palace match for a lunge on Gary Cahill. White played in midfield against Palace, so Dunk’s suspension is likely to see him slot into the back three.
The attacking midfield duo of Solly March and Leandro Trossard have been impressive this season and have arguably overshadowed their more famous midfield team mate, Adam Lallana, who joined this summer on a free transfer from Liverpool. Lallana is yet to complete 90 minutes for his new club as he seeks to regain the form that saw him earn 34 England caps.
Slaven Bilić will have seen lots to build on in the Baggies’ goalless draw with Burnley. With all his new signings available for the first time, the Croat was able to pick a much more balanced line up with new boys Ivanović and Gallagher particularly standing out. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the selection was the recall of Ahmed Hegazi to the starting line up. That may have been a choice that was influenced by Burnley’s aerial prowess and I wonder if we will see Semi Ajayi back in the side on Monday to add some much-needed pace to the centre of defence. It would, perhaps, be harsh on the Egyptian as he and Ivanović both performed well.
There was more pace on either side of the defence in Townsend and Furlong, with the former Scunthorpe United full back’s selection the other big surprise with Kieran Gibbs omitted from the 18 entirely. Bilić confirmed that it was a tactical decision and the the former England international needs to earn his recall to the side. With O’Shea having picked up an injury in training before the Burnley game and unlikely to be fit for Monday, Furlong should be retained on the right.
While the defence produced its most solid performance of the season so far, the midfield was also much improved with a real sense of balance. Jake Livermore looked very much at home as the defensive shield with Conor Gallagher acting as the water carrier with lots of energy and Filip Krovinović buzzing around behind the front three. I would be surprised to see any changes to those midfield three for the game at Brighton.
I also expect to see the same front three as Karlan Grant needs the minutes to get match fit and also needs to build that understanding with his team mates. Another week on the training ground will have helped and I’d like to see the chemistry develop – I have no doubt that Diangana, Krovinović and Pereira will create chances for Grant but he is a very different type of striker to the ones they have played with before, so it may take a little time before Grant’s true potential is realised.
A win would be huge for the Baggies and would lift them above Brighton in the table to 16th. It’s still very early in the season, but Bilić’s boys do need to start picking up points soon if they are to give themselves a chance of staying up.
The history and statistics of this fixture can be found here.