Brighton & Hove Albion surprised many last season by staying up. The Premier League debutants were tipped for the drop last year by many, but manager (and former Tottenham Hotspur player) Chris Hughton impressed by taking an undermanned Brighton to a respectable 15th place. They even earned a couple of impressive victories including home wins over Arsenal and Manchester United.
This season, the aim is to solidify their place in the top flight, and to do that Hughton made a few savvy purchases, including Brazilian fullback Bernardo from Leipzig, midfielder Yves Bissouma from Lille, and Iranian winger Alireza Jahanbakhsh. Ironically, Hughton has gone the opening five matches of the season without relying too much on his new signings — Bernardo has played only one match, and Jahanbakhsh and Bissouma have been mostly utilized as reserves. If Hughton is expecting to work his new signings into the starting 11, he’s doing so very gradually, and the results have been decent thus far.
The Seagulls have one notable scalp already (another home win over United), have drawn matches against Fulham and Southampton, and lost to Liverpool and Watford. Thus far they’ve been riding the impressive performance of Glenn Murray — the 34-year old has four goals for Brighton thus far, putting him in a tie for second in the Premier League behind Eden Hazard, and Spurs should be wary of his ability to get open in the box despite his age. Defensively Brighton are... okay, with a back line anchored by Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy, and have allowed an average of 9 shots per game at home thus far.
Brighton’s stats thus far put them pretty much where they should be — at or slightly below mid-table. They’re not the most fearsome side, but neither are they expected to roll over, especially at home. Spurs only managed a 1-1 draw at the AmEx last season, and are coming into this match with a bad run of matches and what looks like a tired squad.
This is a match that Spurs are expected to win, but not one they can take for granted. After a string of tough losses, including a heartbreaker to Inter Milan, Spurs will want three points no matter what the cost. A win on Saturday in the late game will go a long way towards stabilizing a season that is starting to already get a little wobbly.
How will Tottenham line up against Brighton?
Can you have a must-win league match in September? If so, this might qualify for Tottenham. After starting the season with wins over Newcastle, Fulham, and Manchester United, Spurs have now dropped three straight in all competitions, prompting some to wonder if there’s already something wrong in north London.
That’s probably knee-jerk and reactionary, but Spurs haven’t looked especially great recently, especially in midfield where injury has kept Dele Alli and Moussa Sissoko off the pitch. Victor Wanyama and Harry Winks are only now returning to match action and look rusty. That’s put a lot of stress on the likes of Eric Dier, Mousa Dembele, and Christian Eriksen.
The good news, however, is that Dele and Sissoko have both returned to training, and Dele might be in line to a return to Spurs’ squad on Saturday. That would be a huge boost, as Dele has been one of Spurs’ best and most consistent performers in the first few matches of the league season.
It’s a little hard to guess how Mauricio Pochettino will opt to set up his team after a mid-week trip to Italy in the Champions League. Some rotation is almost inevitable — Toby Alderweireld and Kieran Trippier would have to be considered locks to play as they were left in London on Tuesday. Lucas Moura was on the bench in Italy as well and looks likely to feature. Wanyama was also rested vs. Inter, and it’s possible that Poch could start him vs. Brighton, considering the miles on Eric Dier’s wheels and his overall performance as of late. Harry Kane will start because he’s Harry Kane.
Pochettino is clearly still tinkering with his lineup and tactics, so this could all be hilariously wrong. However, you asked for a predicted lineup and here’s mine. What’s yours?