The final fixture of this particular Premier League weekend takes us to the South Coast as Brighton play host to Stoke with Chris Hughton’s men looking to continue their pre-international break form with a run of results that saw them go four games unbeaten and earn eight points from a possible twelve.
Those results for the Seagulls have seen them sit comfortably in the top half of the table with the seasiders currently finding themselves 9th in the Premier League. They go into this game knowing that a win would see them return to eighth and leapfrog Watford who took that place yesterday thanks to a 2-0 win over West Ham.
Before the international hiatus Brighton made the long trip to South Wales to face Swansea and came away from the Liberty Stadium with all three points thanks to Glenn Murray whose rich vein of form in front of goal continues and there can be no understating the forwards’ contribution this season as the newly promoted side have a healthy distance between themselves and the trio of clubs in the bottom three.
Brighton have played 11 games so far this season in the Premier League and there is a very neat symmetry as they have both scored and conceded 11 goals. They might not be the most freeflowing team in the division but at the same time are giving away very little.
The fact that they have only conceded two goals in their last four league outings speaks volumes and it is those kind of performances which have seen them adjust to the top flight with relative ease, especially when you take their relatively slow start to the season into account.
Life in the Premier League this season for Stoke has not been as joyful by comparison as Mark Hughes’ side currently find themselves 15th in the table and are arguably looking over their shoulder than opposed to looking at the congested group of teams above them.
But there is some optimism for Stoke as a win tonight would see them move as high as 11th and level on points with tonight’s hosts on Brighton. It would have to take a relatively ludicrous nine goal swing for the Potters to get into the top half of the table should they win but moving up four places in foul swoop is not something that will be sniffed at.
Before the international break they had to make do with a home point with Leicester in what was an entertaining lunchtime fixture, once again Peter Crouch was on hand to do what he seemingly does best this season and that is come off the bench and score.
The England international maybe low down on the list for a seat to Russia next Summer but with a minutes to goals ratio of 51 (153 minutes, 3 goals) he may still have something to offer should that efficiency in the opposition’s area continue.
Stoke are not necessarily finding goals hard to come by this season with 13 from their first 11 but it is the defence that has ultimately caused the most headaches. They have conceded 22 this season an average of two goals against per game.
That is the kind of statistic that could work against them come the end of the season if they are still languishing in the lower reaches of the table and something that former Wales boss Mark Hughes will have to continue to work on throughout the season.
He can either turn his side back into the defensive unit they once were or he could purchase defensive personnel in January. Then again with the likes of Kurt Zouma and Kevin Wimmer at the club after Summer moves you do have to wonder just whether or not new faces are necessary.
That is a question that wil be answered in the new year but as for Tonight Brighton’s home form has been fundemental in their current league placing and I have a feeling it is this that will be the difference tonight. Don’t expect lots of goals but do expect a home win.