Duffy injury a blow but Hunemeier a perfect stand-in if needed

duffy

When Shane Duffy signalled that his game against Everton was over, the Brighton & Hove Albion support were naturally fearful of the outcome. And rightly so – the Republic of Ireland international, along with central defensive partner Lewis Dunk, has been the foundation of the Seagulls’ success since his £4 million arrival from Blackburn Rovers last year. The 25-year-old was up against the club which he started his professional career, but was forced off in the 73rd minute with a groin issue which he has since said “felt like a pop”.

Albion would eventually blow a one-goal lead – Wayne Rooney’s penalty cancelling out Anthony Knockaert’s first strike of the campaign – though it was through the actions of captain Bruno rather than Uwe Hunemeier, making his first Premier League appearance in place of Duffy, that the injury-time spot-kick was awarded.

Hunemeier has been on the peripheral of Chris Hughton’s squad throughout his time at the club, making just 26 Championship appearances over two seasons due to injuries of his own. The Borussia Dortmund graduate has failed to break up the all-encompassing partnership between Duffy and Dunk but has been selected in both League Cup games next to Connor Goldson.

The Premier League is a different monster, though, and Hunemeier was somewhat expected to struggle against the likes of Rooney, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Everton’s Man of the Match, Nikola Vlasic, when thrown into the mix on Sunday.

Almost instantaneously, however, the German closed down an opposing attack and made three quickfire challenges on the right side of the Albion defence, albeit somewhat unconventionally. The 31-year-old was also successful in both of his aerial duels, and made four clearances in just 17 minutes of play.

Because of the circumstances leading to his introduction, and the uncertainty surround Duffy’s injury, Hunemeier’s short performance was especially pleasing for Albion fans.

“At the moment we think he’ll be ok,” Hughton told the press prior to Friday evening’s fixture at West Ham. “He hasn’t trained. We’re hoping he’ll train this morning.”

Injury has been commonplace for Duffy throughout his career, such is his wholehearted approach to the game. Only James Tarkowski of Burnley (77) has made more clearances than Duffy (73) in the Premier League thus far this season, while he ranks fourth in number of headers won (33 in eight appearances).

Duffy is rarely beaten in a fifty-fifty situation and is the rough to Dunk’s smooth – the pair have constructed a formidable relationship at the base of the Albion side with the differences in their game allowing them to do so.
But to have a player of Hunemeier’s calibre available in reserve is a enormous source of comfort for supporters.

“There is always a bit of pressure when you have been out for such a long time, I was nervous before the game,” he said earlier in the year following a similar situation to present, with Duffy being ruled out of Albion’s Championship campaign with a foot injury. Hunemeier slotted in seamlessly for the Seagulls’ 2-0 away victory at Rotherham in March and went onto make another nine league appearances in the club’s promotion push.

His tireless efforts behind the scenes often go unnoticed on the south coast, though those in charge at the club regularly cite his unrelenting graft in hope his chance will come.

Friday’s trip to the London Stadium could present another opportunity to Hunemeier to establish himself in the Albion side, should Duffy fail to recover fully, but this time at the top of English football.

Should Hughton select Hunemeier to partner Dunk, the German will be tasked with keeping Javier Hernandez quiet following news of the former Manchester United and Real Madrid striker’s hamstring problem not being as bad as first thought.

“Chicharito has a tight hamstring, he will train again this afternoon at 4pm,” Hammers boss Slaven Bilic told the press on Thursday. “It’s not a big thing, he trained a couple of days ago. The scan was completely clear. He missed yesterday’s light session and we expect that he will be okay.”

Perhaps as a result of Chicharito’s involvement, and the Hammers two-game unbeaten run, fixed odds markets favour a home win on Friday, though if you click here you will see the current spread suggests a relatively high-scoring encounter.

Andy Carroll will play no part in the fixture, having been sent off for two bookings against Burnley at the weekend. The 28-year-old launched himself into a headed contest with Tarkowski, judged to have led with his elbow, and then did the same against Ben Mee less than two minutes later and in turn will miss the clash with Albion.

If fit, Duffy will start the game, such is the Irishman’s importance to the Albion set up. If he’s deemed unavailable, however, Albion will be confident that they have a very capable replacement in the shape of Uwe Hunemeier.

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