Out to stop the rot and avoid being dragged down closer to the bottom three, Brighton and Hove Albion look to pick up a vital three points Saturday when they host Watford in a six-point relegation belter at AMEX Stadium.
Brighton (6-8-11) are winless in their last six in all competitions (0-3-3) and claimed eight points from their last 10 league fixtures (1-5-4) since their 2-1 victory at the Emirates over Arsenal on Dec. 5. Graham Potter’s side, though, rescued a point in east London last weekend with a 3-3 draw versus West Ham United on goals by Pascal Gross and Glenn Murray four minutes apart inside the final quarter-hour.
The result left the Seagulls in 15th pace on 26 points, ahead of Bournemouth on goal difference, but only two points above the drop with 13 matches remaining.
«We need to improve our points tally, last weekend was a good point for us,» Potter said at his Thursday news conference. «We were a little disappointed not to get three in the end. We’ve got another tough challenge this weekend. (Watford) have some good quality but we just have to focus on ourselves.»
Brighton have not done well of late to separate themselves from the drop at home with just one win in their last six league matches there (1-3-2). Potter is hoping first-choice defender Shane Duffy will at least be available for selection after returning to training this week, but it may be too soon for late acquisition Tariq Lamptey to make his Brighton debut after being loaned out by Chelsea.
It will also be the first contest since midfielder Davy Propper put pen to paper on an extension through the 2022-23 season Wednesday. The Dutch international, who joined Brighton from PSV in 2017, is expected to be part of the Netherlands squad in this summer’s European Championship.
«I was aware of his contribution in our first two years in the Premier League and since I came to the club, he has shown his qualities both on and off the pitch on a consistent basis,» Potter told Brighton’s official website. «He is a great professional who is always looking to improve every aspect of his game and I’m really pleased that he is going to be part of our journey going forward.»
While Watford (5-8-12) are still looking up to everyone in the table save Norwich City, the situation is nowhere near as dire prior to Nigel Pearson’s arrival. The Hornets are just two points out of 17th and perhaps more amazingly, only nine out of a place in the top half of the table.
They are, however, facing their first real adversity since Pearson’s arrival – Watford are coming off back-to-back losses and have one point from their last three matches following last weekend’s 3-2 home defeat to Everton. The Hornets threw away a two-goal lead in stoppage time during the first half, then consigned to defeat at the death by Theo Walcott despite playing the final 19 minutes with a man advantage after Toffees midfielder Fabian Delph was booked for a second time.
«It’s big, just like the last two,» said Gerard Deulofeu to the club’s official website. «Every game is going to be really important because we are in a dangerous position and we have to get points. We have some difficult games after the [mid-season] break so we have to take these three points because we lost the last two.»
Pearson is sweating on the fitness of midfielder Tom Cleverley and defender Kiko Femenia, while striker Ismalia Sarr is more touch-and-go as he recovers from a hamstring injury. Defender Daryl Janmaat, however, is likely to miss this contest and be available after the mid-season break.
«I think with any injury like that you have to calculate the risk and decide whether the risk is worth taking,» Pearson said specifically about Sarr, who is tied for third on the team with three goals. «We have 13 games left so I think it’s prudent to make sure players like him, when they’re back, they stay back.»
Brighton ran out 3-0 winners at Vicarage Road in the season lid-lifter. Watford’s Abodulaye Doucoure’s own goal just before the half-hour opened the scoring before Florin Andone and Neal Maupay struck in the second half for the Seagulls.
Watford failed to score in either top-flight match at the Amex since Brighton won promotion for the 2017-18 season and have been blanked in four of their five Premier League meetings while going 1-2-2. The teams have combined for six goals in those matchups.