Brighton & Hove Albion vs Fulham
K/O: 15:00 hours
Venue: The Amex Stadium
Referee: Lee Probert
Although each of these teams have only one victory to their name this current Premier League campaign, both Brighton and Fulham will be confident of adding another victory and obtaining maximum points from Saturday’s encounter at the Amex Stadium.
Alarm bells rung for Brighton fans when the team opened the 2018/19 season with a disappointingly flat 2-0 defeat at Watford, a game in which boss Chris Hughton admitted they were “second best” throughout. Yet since that defeat two encouraging performances against two of last season’s top four have lifted spirits around the Brighton camp. The 3-2 win against Manchester United was expertly handled and meticulously planned for. This was followed up last weekend at Anfield where the Seagulls were extremely close to stealing a point at the death with Liverpool’s Alisson denying Glen Murray a moment of glory.
Although these three opening performances will still do much to encourage supporters that the team are heading in the right direction, there is an ongoing injury situation that may yet cause Brighton immediate problems for their upcoming fixtures. Defenders Bruno and Lewis Dunk, as well as forwards Florin Andone and José Izquierdo, are all a doubt for this fixture, a problem that was compounded in Brighton’s 1-0 Carabao Cup defeat to Southampton on Tuesday night; where a few members of the under 23’s team had to fill into a heavily rotated starting eleven. Although the Seagulls should be entirely capable of naming a strong line-up against Fulham on Saturday, a few more injuries may tip the balance over from moderate concern into total panic.
Fulham arrive at the Amex Stadium this weekend in good spirits having registered an impressive 4-2 victory against Burnley at Craven Cottage last Sunday afternoon. The club will be hoping the result will be seen as the moment that their new-look squad really began to click, demonstrated by André Schürrle’s impressive performance and Jean Michaël Seri’s brilliant long-range goal early on. A lot is being expected from Fulham this season after the well-documented spending spree in the summer transfer window and the game against the Clarets gave a good glimpse as to what the club hopes to consistently achieve.
However, despite the glamour of putting four goals past Burnley, weaknesses remain in the Fulham set-up, particularly defensively where they were poor on the weekend. Burnley’s first goal was practically gifted to them through a number of comical defensive errors; while the second goal, although retrospectively seen to be offside, was another example of serious disorganisation. The Lilywhites have proved that they can attack but if they are to prioritise anything when they play Brighton, it might just be to get a clean-sheet.
As already discussed, Brighton & Hove Albion may be weaker than expected for the trip of Fulham. Lewis Dunk, Florin Andone, José Izquierdo and Bruno are all doubtful for Saturday’s game, hence their absence from the second-round of the League Cup. There won’t be too many changes from the side that walked out at Anfield, with Pascal Groß being the only obvious inclusion. Although they lost that game their performance was extremely solid and at home in particular Brighton will pose a real test for Jakanovic’s side.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to predict how Fulham will line-up as the season continues, with the 4-2 victory over Burnley coming with English wonder-kid and star for Fulham last season, Ryan Sessegnon on the bench. Defensively, Fulham are still waiting for Alfie Mawson to return from injury and once that happens there may be more consistency and strength in their back-four, which has shipped seven goals already this campaign. The forward options are abundant however and any of Schürrle, Vietto, Mitrovic, Kamara and Sessegnon could make up a trio at the top of the pitch.
Predicted Starting XI’s:
Brighton: Ryan; Montoya, Duffy, Balogen, Bong; Knockeart, Stephens, Pröpper, March; Groß; Murray
Fulham: Bettinelli; Fosu-Mensah, Odoi, Le Marchand, Bryan; Seri, McDonald, Cairney; Schürrle, Vietto, Mitrovic.
Score Prediction – Brighton & Hove Albion 2 Fulham 1
Although the teams have identical records going into their game on Saturday, more questions than answers are present at the moment for Fulham. Despite scoring four fantastic goals against Burnley, they were facing a side who were fatigued from a Europa League trip to Greece only a few days before and yet still conceded two extremely sloppy goals. Brighton are extremely disciplined and exceedingly good in front of their own fans and for that reason they may well edge the newly-promoted side this weekend.