Seagulls the value play in South London
Rivals Crystal Palace and Brighton and Hove Albion lock horns at Selhurst Park this Sunday, with the Seagulls looking to recover from a frustrating start to the season given the quality of performances they have put in. Graham Potter’s men were the better team against both Chelsea and Manchester United before recording their third loss in four games away to Everton on the cusp of the international break. The Eagles have been more fortunate, catching the Red Devils cold to win 3-1 at Old Trafford sees them on two wins and two losses from the opening four. Roy Hodgson’s men are narrow favourites.
Given the underlying numbers of these sides I am amazed to see Brighton as narrow outsiders. They won the expected goals (xG) battle in their opening three matches, showing their class in a 3-0 win at Newcastle. You could argue that the Magpies have been their only opponent so far this season that you would not expect to be pushing for European football qualification right up until the end of the campaign, looking at the way Carlo Ancelotti’s side have begun. In terms of expected goals for (xGF), Brighton are the seventh best creative team with 7.4 xG compared to Palace in 15th with 4.3.
Both teams let in four goals in their last outing, Palace were cut open in the second period to lose 4-0 at Stamford Bridge despite making it to half time level, and Brighton went down 4-2 at Goodison Park, with a late Yves Bissouma wonder strike making the result look more respectable. Graham Potter has switched to a back three this season with the return of highly rated former Leeds United loanee Ben White, and though it has seen them impress offensively, the backline still lacks solidity. Filled with ball players like Adam Webster, who leave a lot to be desired off the ball, and led by Lewis Dunk, arguably one of the most underrated defenders in the division.
On current form the Seagulls are stronger, sitting seventh in the embryonic xG table compared to Palace in 15th, but a derby feel always makes a game more even than you would anticipate. The absence of the crowd will not do the usual atmosphere of this fixture justice. Expect Brighton to dominate possession, as Neal Maupay attempts to score at Selhurst Park in back to back seasons.
It will be interesting to see if the likes of Wilfried Zaha and Andros Townsend can push back Brighton’s attacking wing backs Tariq Lamptey and Solly March, two players that usually contribute a lot going forward. If Brighton can be clinical, they get the win.