After their disappointing result at Goodison Park on Saturday, Antonio Conte and Chelsea will be looking to put things right against Brighton on Boxing Day. It’s the first meeting between the two this season as the Seagulls make their first trip to Stamford Bridge since 1989. Harry Maguire’s last-minute equaliser against Manchester United on Saturday means that the Blues are still just three points behind Jose Mourinho’s side in second place so a win against Brighton could make the ground up if the Red Devils drop points at home to Burnley.

Team News

After sitting out the game against Everton through suspension, Alvaro Morata is available again and is expected to start against Brighton. There is still no date set for David Luiz’s return from an ankle injury and you begin to wonder whether it’s just injury keeping him out of Conte’s team. With the busy winter schedule, Conte could opt to rotate his squad with Cesc Fabregas, Davide Zappacosta and Gary Cahill all ready to come into the side. Steve Sidwell is the only player sidelined for Chris Hughton’s side as they look to climb into the top half of the table. Centre-back Shane Duffy is expected to return after suspension.

Probable Chelsea XI: Courtois; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Cahill; Zappacosta, Kante, Bakayoko, Fabregas, Alonso; Hazard, Morata.

Probable Brighton XI: Ryan; Bruno, Duffy, Dunk, Bong; Knockaert, Stephens, Propper, Izquierdo; Gross, Murray.

Key Battles

Glenn Murray will be a target man for the away side with Chelsea expected to dominate much of the ball, so stifling the service into him will be key in keeping a clean sheet on Tuesday afternoon. Andreas Christensen will be tasked with man-marking him and could come up short physically so he’ll have to use his footballing intelligence to stop the big striker from getting the better of him. Eden Hazard will resume his number 10 position with the return of Morata. He’ll have to wriggle through the physical midfield and defence that Brighton have at their disposal, relying on Cesc Fabregas to help create chances for both himself and Morata.

As we saw against Everton, Chelsea lack a goal-scoring midfielder like Frank Lampard and that role could fall to Tiemoue Bakayoko. If he gets himself in the right positions then he’s got a great chance of finding the net and getting his team three points at the Bridge.

Chelsea’s record against Brighton

These two sides have met each other just four times competitively, with Chelsea winning all four matches. All four of these games came in the 1980s and ended with an aggregate score of 6-1, so they weren’t high scoring fixtures.
Kevin Wilson scored in both meetings during the 1988/89 season where both teams found themselves in the second tier. This is the first meeting between the two clubs in the first division of English football.

With 8 wins from their last 11 games, Chelsea are on a good run of form but must keep the momentum going through and into the New Year with Tottenham gaining ground fast. Expect to see some different faces in the starting line-up on Boxing Day with another game just four days later against Stoke at Stamford Bridge.