Blues Eye European Spot Against Seagulls

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A reinvigorated Chelsea side vying for a return to continental football travel to a Brighton & Hove Albion team mourning their own European aspirations in Wednesday’s Premier League contest.

The Blues emerged triumphant 3-2 from a topsy-turvy affair with Nottingham Forest over the weekend, while the Seagulls were pegged back in a 1-1 draw with Newcastle United.

Continuing their alarming trend of failing to score more than once in a game – a sequence which now stands at a staggering 14 matches in all competitions – Brighton were briefly in the ascendancy at St James’ Park on Saturday, where Joel Veltman bundled in the opener before trudging off with an injury.

Funnily enough, Newcastle’s leveller on the stroke of half time came via an attack down Brighton’s right flank after the Dutchman was withdrawn for Tariq Lamptey, as Elliot Anderson’s cutback was perfectly placed for Sean Longstaff to tap in the match’s second and final goal.

Neither side had anything to write home about in a second half bereft of star quality in the final third, and while Roberto De Zerbi’s side managed to put a dent in Newcastle’s European aspirations in the North East, the 10th-placed Seagulls now have nothing significant left to play for.

Lying smack-bang in mid-table mediocrity, Brighton can only finish as high as eighth – and even that hinges on them taking maximum points off of Manchester United on the final day – but it has now been almost three months since the hosts notched multiple goals in a single 90-minute affair.

Whether De Zerbi will still be on the South Coast in 2024-25 is another question entirely – Bayern Munich are supposedly still pushing to bring him to Germany – but his immediate task at hand for Brighton’s penultimate game of the season is achieving back-to-back home wins in the league for the first time since September.

Coincidentally, Chelsea make the trip to the Amex Stadium seeking successive Premier League victories on the road for the first time in 2024, having cruelly denied Nottingham Forest the chance to rubber-stamp their top-flight status at the City Ground on Saturday evening.

Callum Hudson-Odoi would seemingly have the last laugh against his former club after earlier efforts from Mykhaylo Mudryk and Willy Boly, but a fine Raheem Sterling finish and 14th Premier League goal of the season for Nicolas Jackson completed a striking late turnaround for the Blues.

The Senegalese striker made an immediate beeline for the elated travelling crowd before Mauricio Pochettino’s rejuvenated crop saw out their third straight Premier League success, one that puts them firmly in control of the race for seventh and has them trailing Newcastle only on goal difference.

Of course, should the rankings stay as they are, eighth-placed Manchester United can scupper Chelsea’s European dreams by winning the FA Cup, but optimism is growing for the 2024-25 term under Pochettino, as talk of the sack has quietened significantly in recent weeks.

A 15-game run without a clean sheet in Premier League away games remains an unwelcome blot on the Pochettino notebook, though, and they were given a rude awakening in a 4-1 trouncing in this fixture last season, but December’s Stamford Bridge showdown ended in a 3-2 triumph for the West London giants.

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