Our final away day of the season and a long trip to the South Coast here for Bruce and the boys, who’ll be looking to at least end a run of defeats after three losses on the spin.
We were better against Spurs on Wednesday and could’ve got something from the game on another day, however more woeful defending cost us in the end.
On the subject of defending, it’s a good job we aren’t in desperate need of points here, with us set to face the Seagulls with FIVE of our six senior centre-backs on the sidelines!
That said, it would be nice if Bruce threw in the odd youngster by choice here – not through necessity – as this really does feel like the perfect time for a few of Watts, M Longstaff, Young or Allan to show us what they can do.
At the end of a season that has fizzled out in recent weeks, at least they could bring a sense of energy and intrigue to proceedings!
(4-2-3-1): Dubravka – Manquillo, Fernandez, Watts, Rose – Bentaleb, Shelvey – Lazaro, Almiron, Joelinton – Gayle.
Dubravka has started every league game so far this season and made more saves than any other Premier League stopper in the mean time, so expect to see him play once again.
The defence is anyone’s guess, but with every senior centre-back bar Fernandez ruled out and Kelland Watts now cleared to play by the Premier League, we may well see the Alnwick-born defender make his Premier League debut alongside the Argentine.
Krafth is an option, but he’s struggled the two times Bruce has used him in central areas over the past few weeks, particularly in the second half of that 1-3 defeat to Spurs.
As a result, Manquillo may return at right-back after a rest, while Rose will almost certainly come in down the left after being ineligible to play against his parent club last time out.
Hayden and Sean Longstaff have been described as ‘big doubts’ and surely won’t be risked, while Matty Longstaff doesn’t seem all that likely to start until his contract situation is sorted (which it still isn’t based on Bruce’s frustrated comments over the weekend!), so Bentaleb and Shelvey seem likely to continue in the middle.
Jonjo looks better when Gayle is on the pitch, yet a little lost without Hayden from a defensive perspective, with Bundesliga reject Nabil Bentaleb often looking like he’s running through treacle when tracking back. He surely needs a big performance here if he’s to convince us he’s worth signing permanently from Schalke. The Algerian has got ability, but he’s generally been a liability who’s bypassed too easily when players run at him.
With Saint-Maximin picking up a calf problem, I’d like to see Lazaro get a chance to show what he can do from the off (not just a 10-minute cameo when the game is gone!), although Bruce tends to favour Ritchie when fit. He scored a stunner last time out, but surely it’s time to see what Lazaro is capable of before we decide whether he’s worth paying £20m for ahead of his return to Inter Milan?
Elsewhere, Joelinton could come back into the side down the left after only featuring as a late sub in our last two, while Almiron seems likely to continue in the no.10 role behind an in-form Gayle.
Carroll appears to be fit again, but Gayle has looked sharp since football returned, being our top scorer in that time with 3 goals and a constant pest for opposition defences with some good movement and link play.
Not only that, it was noticeable how less of a threat we looked when he came off in that 1-3 defeat to Spurs, with Shelvey appearing to come alive when the pair are on the pitch together and in the mood.
Here’s a few of the ‘ones to watch’ in Graham Potter’s Seagull’s side:
Neal Maupay – The Frenchman has done a very decent job since making a £20m move from Brentford last summer. He got into double figures with a goal at Southampton in their last game and always looks to get in behind. A fox in the box who’ll be looking to capitalise on our recent defensive frailties!
Tariq Lamptey – The former Chelsea youth product has been outstanding since football returned, showing real quality and composure at right-back in recent weeks. The 19-year-old looks good going forward, has pace to burn and endless energy. One to watch for the future if not Monday night!
Leandro Trossard – Another recent signing who looks a handy player. The Belgian international winger has been involved in 9 goals this season and has a decent left foot on him.
Dan Burn – A 6ft 7′ left-back who was released by Newcastle United as an 11-year-old. For a giant full-back he isn’t beaten as easily as you’d expect, but it will be interesting to see how he copes if we opt for pace down our right.
Danny Rose will return after being ineligible against Spurs, but Bruce has described Allan Saint-Maximin (calf) as a ‘big doubt’.
Jamaal Lascelles (ankle) and Fabian Schar (shoulder) have been ruled out for the season after surgery, while Sean Longstaff and Isaac Hayden remain sidelined with hamstring injuries.
Andy Carroll is back in training and could feature, as could U-23 centre-back Kelland Watts, who could benefit from our injury crisis at the back, with Florian Lejeune and Ciaran Clark set to miss out once again.
Brighton centre-back Adam Webster is touch and go, while Glen Murray may move back to the bench after a rare start at Southampton last time out.
Winger Alireza Jahanbakhsh could return to their squad, but Steven Alzate and Jose Izquierdo both remain out.
Our results this season without Allan Saint-Maximin aren’t pretty and our defending in recent weeks has been even uglier, so I can’t say I’m too optimistic going into this.
On the one hand you’d like to see a response after three straight defeats, however we’ve looked like a team that has nothing to play for of late and Brighton needs another point to guarantee they’ll be a Premier League team next season.
It’s also worth noting that they played us off the park (albeit without actually scoring!) in the reverse fixture last year, with them having 77% of the ball in that 0-0 draw at St James’ Park!
I’m hoping we can build on what was, in parts, an improved display in the defeat to Tottenham, but with ASM missing and us set to field a patched up defence, I think we might have to settle for a point at best!
Prediction: Brighton 1-1 Newcastle