Build-Up To The New Season – Chelsea

Team: Chelsea

Nickname: The Blues

Founded: 1905

Manager: Antonio Conte

Stadium Name: Stamford Bridge

Stadium Capacity: 41,631

Major Honours: (6) Division One, (2) Division Two, (7) F.A Cups, (5) League Cups, (4) Community Shields, (1) Champions League, (1) Europa League, (1) UEFA Super Cup

Main Rivals: Arsenal, Tottenham, Manchester United, West Ham, QPR, Fulham, Brentford

Biggest Win v Brighton: 4-0 (February 1967)

Biggest Defeat v Brighton: 2-1 (January 1933)

Last Meeting: Brighton 0-1 Chelsea (15/3/89)

When Do They Play Brighton: Tuesday 26th December (Stamford Bridge), Saturday 20th January (AMEX Stadium)

 

Players To Watch:

Goalkeeper: Thibaut Courtois

Defender: David Luiz

Midfielder: N’Golo Kante 

Striker: Eden Hazard

 

After a dissapointing season previously, Antonio Conte had his work cut out, to propel Chelsea back up the table and back into the Champions League. After 3 wins for 3 at the start of the season, Chelsea failed to win the next 3 including defeats against rivals Arsenal and Liverpool. However, a superb run of 13 straight wins helped them go to the top of the table by the end of the year. Tottenham inflicted their first defeat since September when the two London rivals met just after New Years Day, but 14 wins in the remaining 18 games saw them win the title by 7 points, also setting a new Premier League record for most wins in a season, eclipsing the previous record of 29 wins set by themselves during Jose Mourinho’s first spell in charge.

 

Last Season’s Finish: 1st

Predicted Finish; 3rd

Build-Up To The New Season – Burnley

Team: Burnley

Nickname: The Clarets

Founded: 1882

Manager: Sean Dyche

Stadium Name: Turf Moor

Stadium Capacity: 21,800

Major Honours: (2) First Division, (3) Second Division, (1) Third Division, (1) Fourth Division, (1) F.A Cup, (1) Community Shield

Main Rivals: Blackburn, Preston, Rochdale, Blackpool, Halifax Town, Stockport County

Biggest Win v Brighton: 3-0 (April 1973, October 1978, September 1993, October 1995)

Biggest Defeat v Brighton: 3-0 (December 1992)

Last Meeting: Brighton 2-2 Burnley (2/4/16)

When Do They Play Brighton: Saturday 13th December (AMEX Stadium), Saturday 28th April (Turf Moor)

 

Players To Watch:

Goalkeeper: Tom Heaton

Defender: Charlie Taylor

Midfielder: Steven Defour

Striker: Andre Gray

 

Burnley were looking to consolidate their Premier League status for the first time, after being relegated straight back down the previous 2 times they have achieved promotion to the Premier League. A large amount of their 16th place success was their home form, where they lost just 6 games and won 10 times, including scalps against Liverpool, Everton and a draw against champions Chelsea. On the contrary, their away from was completely shocking, winning only once on the road and that was in April against Crystal Palace. Fans of Burnley will be hoping they can at least get 2 away wins on the board this year, otherwise they could face the drop.

 

Last Season’s Finish: 16th

Predicted Finish; 19th

Build-Up To The New Season – Brighton

Team: Brighton and Hove Albion

Nickname: The Seagulls, Albion

Founded: 1901

Manager: Chris Hughton

Stadium Name: AMEX Stadium

Stadium Capacity: 30,750

Major Honours: (3) Third Division, (2) Fourth Division, (1) F.A Community Shield

Main Rivals: Crystal Palace, Southampton, Bournmouth, Portsmouth
Players To Watch:

Goalkeeper: Mathew Ryan

Defender: Lewis Dunk

Midfielder: Anthony Knockaert

Striker: Sam Baldock

 

After missing out on the last day of the previous season, before losing in the semi-finals of the play-offs, it just seemed that Brighton couldn't jump that final hurdle to head towards the finish line, after a 3rd semi-final defeat in 4 years. However, some shrewd signings and a massive togetherness within the squad, they finally reached the promised land with 3 games to spare, although their achievement might have been tarnished, after throwing away a 7 point lead over Newcastle to end up finishing 2nd place and missing out on the league title. Either way, it was a huge achievement giving what the squad had been through just 12 months earlier, and if they can keep a large bulk of the squad, make more decent signings and keep key players fit there is no reason why they can't look forward to a 2nd season in the English top flight.

 

Last Season’s Finish: 2nd (Championship) 

Predicted Finish; 16th

Build-Up To The New Season – Arsenal

Team: Arsenal

Nickname: The Gunners

Founded: 1886

Manager: Arsene Wenger

Stadium Name: Emirates Stadium

Stadium Capacity: 60,432

Major Honours: (13) First Division, (2) League Cups, (13) F.A Cups, (14) Community Shields, (1) European Cup Winners Cup

Main Rivals: Tottenham, Chelsea, Fulham, West Ham, Manchester United

Biggest Win v Brighton: 4-0 (August 1979 & November 1979)

Biggest Defeat v Brighton: 2-1 (April 1982)

Last Meeting: Brighton 2-3 Arsenal (25/11/2015)

When Do They Play Brighton: Sunday 1st October (Emirates Stadium), Saturday 3rd March (AMEX Stadium)
Players To Watch:

Goalkeeper: Petr Cech

Defender: Laurent Koscielny

Midfielder: Mesut Ozil

Striker: Alexandre Lacazette

 

Arsenal failed to qualify for the Champions League for the first time in over 20 years; yet they still managed to come out the season with some silverware, after beating Chelsea in the F.A Cup final; a record 13th triumph for the North Londoners. Arsenal started with a opening day loss to Liverpool, but did managed to beat Chelsea 5 games later, in a run of 14 games unbeaten which also included draws against rivals Tottenham and Man Utd. Costly defeats to Watford, West Brom, Chelsea and Liverpool left their top 4 hopes hanging by a thread. 8 wins in their remaining 11 games still weren’t enough to clamber into the top 4, and it will be Thursday night football for the Gunners this season.

 

Last Season’s Finish: 5th

Predicted Finish; 4th

Build-Up To The Season – AFC Bournmouth

Team: AFC Bournmouth

Nickname: The Cherries

Founded: 1899

Manager: Eddie Howe

Stadium Name: Dean Court/Vitality Stadium

Stadium Capacity: 11,464

Major Honours: (1) Second Divison Title, (1) Third Division Title, (1) Football League Trophy

Main Rivals: Southampton, Portsmouth, Brighton, Yeovil, Reading

Biggest Win v Brighton: 6-1 (February 1949)

Biggest Defeat v Brighton: 6-0 (April 1934)

Last Meeting: Brighton 0-2 AFC Bournmouth (10/4/15)

When Do They Play Brighton: Vitality Stadium (Sep 15th 2017); AMEX Stadium (Jan 1st 2018)

 

Players To Watch:

Goalkeeper: Asmir Begovic

Defender: Simon Francis

Midfielder: Lewis Cook

Striker: Jermain Defoe

 

After their excellent first season in the Premier League, Bournemouth were looking to kick on and establish themselves as a long-term club within the English top flight. After a shaky start to the campaign, with 2 wins in the first 11 games, they secured 3 wins in the next 5 including the thrilling 4-3 win against Liverpool. 1 win in 10 after that saw them looking over their shoulders, but a superb end to their campaign with 2 defeats in their last 12, saw them climb from 14th to 9th.

 

Last Season’s Finish: 9th

Predicted Finish; 10th

AVFC v BHAFC (7/5/17) | Match Review

Brighton missed out on the chance to be crowned Championship champions, after they conceded a 89th minute equaliser against Aston Villa, allowing Newcastle to snatch the title at the death.

Henri Lansbury created the first opportunity of the game, as he fired towards goal from 30 yards out, but Albion goalkeeper David Stockdale made a textbook save to his left-hand side. Lansbury then pounced on Sebastien Pocognoli’s hesitant chested pass inside the box, but with just Stockdale to beat from a couple of yards out, the midfielder headed narrowly wide. Anthony Knockaert then won a free-kick out wide and whipped the delivery into the box, however Steve Sidwell’s glancing header flashed wide of the target. Albion’s next chance fell to Sidwell again, as he raced into the box and met Bruno’s cross to the back post, but this time the midfielder’s header dropped over the crossbar. Pocognoli put the visitors under pressure when his backpass fell straight to Villa striker Scott Hogan, but Stockdale came to the rescue with an important save low down. Sam Baldock was then sent racing through on goal, as he latched onto Knockaert’s defence-splitting pass, however the Albion striker was unable to hit the target as he lashed over from a tight angle. Stockdale was called into action moments before half-time, as he darted across his goal to push Conor Hourihane’s 25-yard free-kick around the post, to ensure the teams went in level at the break. A last-ditch tackle by Lewis Dunk denied substitute Keinan Davis after the break, before the striker’s close-range effort rose over the crossbar from the resulting corner. Stockdale then made comfortable saves to keep out long-range attempts by Leandro Bacuna and Hourihane, moments before Glenn Murray glanced a header agonisingly wide from Jamie Murphy’s inswinging cross. After close control from Baldock inside the area, which allowed him to get free and fire towards goal, Villa goalkeeper Sam Johnstone did well to keep out the striker’s powerful right-footed effort from a tight angle. But on 64 minutes, the game swung in Albion’s favour when Baldock was tripped inside the box by Nathan Baker, leaving referee Darren Bond to point to the penalty spot and show the Villa defender his marching orders. Murray took responsibility from the penalty spot and rolled the ball past Johnstone into the bottom corner, giving the Seagulls the lead while Newcastle United were winning 2-0 at St James’ Park. A matter of minutes later, Murray intercepted a backpass and rolled the ball back for an onrushing Baldock, but the striker was unable to make a firm connection in front of goal. Substitute Solly March went close with a low-driven effort from 25 yards, before Sidwell headed wide of the target from Dale Stephens’s delivery to the back post. Johnstone then saved well from Bruno’s right-footed strike inside the box, shortly before James Bree’s long-range attempt was deflected narrowly wide of Stockdale’s left-hand upright. Stockdale protected Albion’s slender lead with a fantastic save at full stretch from another dangerous Hourihane free-kick. But with just one minute remaining on the clock, disaster struck for the Seagulls when Jack Grealish’s long-range effort found its way through a crowd of bodies inside the box to level the scoreline. Albion pushed for a late winner, however time ran out, meaning Newcastle finished as champions and the Seagulls reached the Premier League in second place.

Line-Up;

Stockdale (6); Made a string of fine saves from various players, but will have nightmares about the way Grealish’s shot went in.

Bruno (7); Didn’t look as if the early clash of heads with Hogan affected him, with a solid game against a tricky Adomah.

Tomori (7); Has gone from strength to strength since his arrival, and this was another top performance.

Dunk (7); Tussled well with Hogan through the first half, before having to deal with Davis after Hogan’s withdrawal. Might feel partly to blame with his attempted block on Grealish’s shot.

Pocognoli (6); Fortunate to get away with 2 first half errors, which really should have been put away; hard to know whether he will be here next season.

Knockaert (6); An off day for the Player of the Season; came up against rock-solid Taylor, who thwarted him most of the afternoon.

Stephens (7); As the game opened up he began to dictate the game, especially when playing against 10 men.

Sidwell (7); A busy player in the first half with tackles, shots and fouls all on the agenda for the Albion midfielder.

Murphy (6); A surprise pick for me; didn’t offer much in the first half, and as he was getting into the game finally, he was withdrawn.

Baldock (6); Did well to win the penalty, but will be extremly dissapointed he couldn’t take the other 2 glorious chances handed to him, especially Murray’s cut-back moments after the penalty.

Murray (7); Kept a cool head, and sent Johnstone the wrong way, which topped off a fine season for the Albion striker who finishes with 23 league goals.

Subs;

March (6); Sent on to inject some pace down the left, and argubly gave Albion more that Murphy did.

Rosenior (6); Given a tough time a with his introduction at right back, when Villa were on top.

Hemed (N/A); Last throw of the dice to find a late winner.

AVFC [1]-[1] BHAFC; Baker (63; RED), Grealish (89); Murray (64; PEN);

Att; 32,856 (2,700 Brighton)

MOTM; Tomori

AVFC v BHAFC (7/5/17) | Match Preview

Brighton have a final 3rd chance at the cherry on Sunday, as they look to wrap up the league title in the backyard of Aston Villa; a place where they have never won.

Aston Villa News;

Aston Villa are without numerous players with Jonathan Kodija, Mile Jedinak, Alan Hutton, Gabby Agbonlahor, Andre Green and Russian Hepburn-Murphy are all out for Villa. Villa lost last time out in their final away game of the season, when they went 1-0 down to Blackburn; a second half strike from Danny Graham enough for the relegation threatened team. Kodija is the leading Villa scorer this season with 19 goals.

Form; W, D, L, L, W, L

FACT; Aston Villa have scored in 95% of their home games.

Brighton News;

Brighton could have Sam Baldock back in the starting line-up, after finally recovering from a glute injury, but Shane Duffy and Connor Goldson still miss out. Brighton missed the chance to wrap up the title on home soil, after they were defeated 1-0 by Bristol City; a first half Josh Brownhill strike enough to secure City’s safety for another season. Glenn Murray is the leading Albion scorer this season with 22 goals.

Form; W, W, W, W, L, L

FACT; Anthony Knockaert have been directly involved in more goals than any other Championship midfielder (23; 15 goals, 8 assists)

Last Time We Met: BHAFC [1]-[1] AVFC (18/11/16);

Brighton were held to a 1-1 draw at home to Villa; Nathan Baker opened the scoring, before Murray equalized before half-time.

H-2-H;

Brighton have won 4 times against Villa while the Birmingham-based side have secured victory 11 times in the 21 previous meetings. Brighton have never won at Villa Park, with the last meeting ending in a 3-2 defeat in the F.A Cup back in 2010. 8 of the 15 game won by either side have been by a single goal, so expect a close match.

Likely Line-Up;

Stockdale;

Bruno, Hunemeier, Dunk, Pocognoli;

Knockaert, Stephens, Kayal, March;

Baldock, Murray;

Prediction;

Aston Villa 0-1 Brighton

BHAFC v BCFC (29/4/17) | Match Preview

Brighton will look to clinch the English 2nd tier league title for the first time, when they take on Brsitol CIty on Saturday; Brighton just need to match or better Newcastle’s result from Friday night for them to be handed the Championship trophy, while Bristol City need a point to mathematically be safe for another season, although they should be safe with a superior goal difference over Blackburn, and will know before the kick-off wether they will actually need the point or not.

Bristol City News;

Bristol City will be without Aaron Wilbraham, Mark Little and Gary O’Neil for the game on Saturday. Bristol City won 3-2 last time out at home to Barnsley; ALex Mowatt put the Tykes in front before Tammy Abraham pulled it level. George Moncur put the visitors back in the lead, only for Jamie Paterson and Aden Flint to secure the 3 points for the Robins. Abraham is the leading City scorer this season; the on-loan Chelsea man has scored an impressive 23 goals.

Form; L, L, W, W, D, W 

FACT; The Robins have won just once in their last 17 away games, losing 12.

Brighton News;

Brighton could welcome back Sam Baldock after missing the previous 6 games through a glute injury, but Shane Duffy and Connor Goldson are both still out. Brighton’s 5 match winning run came to an end last Friday, after they lost 2-0 away at Norwich; David Stockdale scoring 2 own goals, after the ball rebounded off the bar and post onto his back both times from Alex Pritchard shots. Glenn Murray has 22 for the season, and is the leading Albion scorer.

Form; W, W, W, W, W, L

FACT; Murray has scored in each of his last 5 home game.

Last Time We Met: BCFC [0]-[2] BHAFC (5/11/16);

Brighton secured a 2-0 victory over Saturday’s oppositions, thanks to a spectacular goal from Steve Sidwell (which ended up winning EFL Goal of the Season), and a goal from Jamie Murphy.

H-2-H;

Brighton have won 31 of the previous 76 meetings between the 2 sides, while City have claimed victory on 28 occasions. Brighon haven’t tasted defeat against the Robins in 7 matches; winning 6 of those games, and have only conceded once in that time, scoring 13. The last City victory was at the Withdean 10 years ago.

Likely Line-Up;

Stockdale;

Bruno, Hunemeier, Dunk, Bong;

Knockaert, Stephens, Kayal, March;

Hemed, Murray;

Prediction;

Brighton 2-0 Bristol City

 

NCFC v BHAFC (21/4/17) | Match Review

Brighton tasted defeat for the first time in 6 games, after 2 freakish own goals. David Stockdale scored a remarkable two own goals as Brighton suffered a 2-0 defeat to Norwich at Carrow Road, meaning we must wait to clinch the Championship title.

Brighton were uncharacteristically slow to get out of the traps and almost conceded after just five minutes when Norwich striker Nelson Oliveira failed to connect with the ball when unmarked inside the six-yard box. The Canaries continued to dominate possession as the half wore on and deservedly took the lead, although in fortuitous circumstances. Josh Murphy showed great determination to bundle his way through two challenges before laying the ball off for Pritchard on the edge of the box. His sweet strike cannoned off the crossbar into the back of Stockdale and then back into the Brighton goal. It was a case of déjà vu 20 minutes later as another excellent shot from Pritchard struck the woodwork – only to once again rebound off the back of Stockdale and trickle over the line for a freakish second. Brighton had looked like a shadow of the side that had secured promotion to the Premier League earlier in the week and Hughton would have demanded a response during the half-time interval. The visitors began the second period with real intent and could have pulled one back when Jamie Murphy’s cross narrowly evaded Glenn Murray inside the Norwich box. The Seagulls top scorer thought he had his goal moments later but his looping header was well cleared off the line by Russell Martin. Norwich continued to provide a real threat on the counter-attack and youngster Murphy was unlucky to see his penalty appeals waved away after he was brought down in the box by Lewis Dunk. That proved to be the last real talking point in the match, as the hosts closed out a surprisingly comfortable win against the champions-elect.

Line-Up;

Stockdale (5); Unlucky night for the Albion stopper; nothing he could of done to stop the goals.

Bruno (6); Showed some signs of attacking intent, but his rapport with Knockaert was off and had a real battle on his hands with Josh Murphy.

Hunemeier (6); Looked good in the air, but on the ground against Oliveira he looked lethargic and not at the races.

Dunk (6); Much similar to Hunemeier; got caught wrong side of Oliveira in the opening minutes.

Pocognoli (5); Frustrating night for the Belgian; restricted to lots of defending and then blazed his free kick over in the second half.

Knockaert (5); Terrible night for the Championship player of the year; grew frustrated as the game drew on, most likely due to his early encounter with Graham Dorian’s.

Sidwell (6); A really tough night for the midfielder with Pritchard coming and going and Howson getting forward every chance he could get.

Norwood (6); Same as Sidwell, but had more joy when in possession of the ball.

March (5); Pinto had him in his back pocket for much of the game; didn’t really create an awful lot.

Murphy (6); Should of had a penalty in the first half, but other than that he was pretty much chasing shadows with Norwich moving he ball around nicely.

Murray (6); Looked very isolated up top on his own, had a couple good chances, but couldn’t take them.

Subs;

Hemed (6); Injected a bit of quality as the formation reverted to 4-4-2.

Stephens (6); Subbed on at the expense of Norwood, and helped control a losing midfield.

Akpom (N/A); Not much chance to do anything, other than get in the way of Murphy’s shot which he was offside for.

NCFC [2]-[0] BHAFC; Stockdale OG (18), (39);

Att; 26932 (Brighton Unknown)

MOTM; Norwood

BHAFC v WAFC (17/4/17) | Match Review

Brighton secured Premier League football for the first time, and returned to the top flight for the first time in 34 years. After a tense win against a stubborn Wigan side, fans, players and chairman Tony Bloom sparked into wild celebrations, with promotion all but confirmed; it later was official when Huddersfield conceded late on against Derby to end up drawing.

Anthony Knockaert tried his luck from distance early on, but his tame effort from distance was comfortably gathered by Wigan goalkeeper Jakob Haugaard. Knockaert then cut inside from the left and drifted in a superb cross towards the onrushing Glenn Murray, but Jake Buxton got a crucial touch to head the ball behind. The Frenchman delivered another ball into the box that Haugaard couldn’t deal with, before Lewis Dunk saw his second attempt deflected wide. The Knockaert-Dunk combination was in action again, as the Albion centre-back rose highest in the box from an in-swinging set-piece only to see his header go over. Albion continued to cause Wigan problems from set-pieces, and this time Uwe Huenemeier met a Knockaert corner at the far post, but Haugaard collected the ball. Albion broke the deadlock in the 37th minute courtesy of Murray, who fired home his 22nd goal of the season from the edge of the box after being teed up by Tomer Hemed. The club’s leading marksman thought he doubled Albion’s advantage five minutes later when he headed home, but the ball had gone out of play from the original corner. Albion had a golden chance to double their advantage shortly after the re-start after Haugaard dropped the ball but both Hemed and Knockaert saw their subsequent shots blocked on the line. Haugaard redeemed himself moments later with a fine save to keep out Knockaert’s free-kick from nestling into the far corner. The Seagulls did get the second goal in the 65th minute, as some brilliant skill from Knockaert teed up Solly March, who took a touch and fired a right-footed strike through Haugaard’s legs. Substitute Jamie Murphy raced forward down the left-hand side to set up Murray in a central position, but Stephen Warnock deflected his effort over the target. Albion had their second effort of the afternoon ruled out for offside when Hemed played Knockaert through on goal, although it looked a very close call. The Seagulls continued their dominance as Murray flashed a ball across the face of goal and Knockaert narrowly failed to make a connection at the far post. Just as Albion looked to be cruising toward the finishing line, Nick Powell headed home Jamie Hanson’s perfectly-weighted cross to make it 2-1 five minutes from time. Albion sub Chuba Akpom came close to adding a third late on, but his angled attempt hit the side netting. But the game finished 2-1 with Albion knowing that their place in the Premier League was all but secured – sparking jubilant scenes at the Amex which will last a lifetime, only for them to be officially promoted a couple hours later, when Derby scored a late equaliser against Huddersfield.

Line-Up;

Stockdale (7); Was on course for a 21st clean sheet, but denied by Powell late on but won’t mind that too much, after the games he has kept them in this season.

Bruno (7); Was sound defensively and linked up well with Knockaert throughout the game.

Hunemeier (7); Another good contribution to the team with some rock solid defending; only blemish was that Powell got inside of him for his goal.

Dunk (7); Been solid throughout the season, and another strong performance saw them over the line.

Bong (7); Not much to offer going forward, but a complete defensive performance.

Knockaert (8); Big part in what turned out to be the winning goal, and another useful contribution elsewhere.

Stephens (8); Does go unnoticed at times for what he does to the Brighton side, but starting to get the recognition he deserves; another top midfield performance.

Kayal (8); Brought back into the starting XI, and produced a sturdy game where not much went wrong for him defensively or offensively.

March (8); Scored what turned out to be the goal which sent up Brighton; a constant threat out wide, although his crosses weren’t his best.

Murray (8); Who else to settle the AMEX nerves? A cool composed finish for his 22nd goal of the season.

Hemed (7); Not the standout performace he had hoped for, but his precise pass to Murray helped them take the lead; did a lot of the graft up top

Subs;

Murphy (6); Added an injection of pace down the wing.

Norwood (6); Sent on to try and keep possession and see the game out.

Akpom (6); Had a glorious chance to grab his first Albion goal, but had some good hold up play.

BHAFC [2]-[1] WAFC ; Murray (37), March (65); Powell (85);

Att; 29,940

MOTM; Knockaert