Brighton on course for a 15th placed finish

fifteenthplace

Brighton find themselves bang in the middle of the most intense relegation battle the Premiership has ever seen and need to muster a spirited effort to survive. Heading into the weekend’s games, just three points separated West Ham in 12th from Huddersfield in 19th, and at least 10 teams are locked in a relegation dogfight. This is unprecedented in the Premiership and slightly unfortunate for the Seagulls, who have performed admirably in their maiden season in the top flight. But relegation is a financial disaster for clubs and they are pulling out all the stops as they bid to survive.

Many have rolled the dice by sacking their managers and bringing in a new boss to galvanise the squad, and it has often worked. Some have loosened the purse strings in an effort to beat the drop, evidenced by Swansea breaking their transfer record to bring Andre Ayew back to the Liberty Stadium. Every time a team looks like escaping the relegation scrap, they are sucked back in as the clubs below them find their form. Swansea, Bournemouth and Southampton, three teams that recently looked in severe danger, have all been magnificent in recent weeks. Crystal Palace and West Ham, who both looked to have climbed to safety, are now nervously looking over their shoulders. Palace’s star player, Wilfried Zaha, is out for a month and that could be devastating to their chances of survival. How Brighton fans would love to stay up at the Eagles’ expense.

It all makes for a thrilling spectacle for neutrals, but a nail-biting affair for fans in the thick of it. In this context, Brighton have gone on a strong run, taking seven points from a possible nine to open up a three-point gap on the drop zone. But that is nothing really, just one win from peril. Even if they win another couple of games, they need to stay extremely focused and keep battling for every single point, as their rivals will not ease up at all.

There is little danger of the team slacking now, under the guidance of Chris Hughton, who has done a magnificent job once again this season. He has operated with limited funds compared to several of the teams around him, but has kept the Seagulls extremely competitive. Defensive organisation and diligence are the hallmarks of this team, and that is half the battle when it comes to Premiership survival. Brighton have conceded the fewest goals in the bottom half of the table, the same number as sixth-placed Arsenal and only four more than third-placed Liverpool. That is heartening.

But the other half of the battle is sticking the ball in the back of the net and this is where Brighton have fallen short this season. Only two teams – Swansea and Huddersfield – have scored fewer times than them all season. Big things are expected of record signing Jurgen Locadia, but he will take a while to acclimatise himself to the rigours of Premiership football. As has often been the case, Brighton will probably find themselves turning to the evergreen Glenn Murray, who has scored 10 times this season, one every 144 minutes. Contrast that with Tomer Hemed’s record of a goal every 848 minutes, and you can see the value Murray brings to the team, even at the ripe old age of 34. It would be risky to replace him with Islam Slimani, who is not exactly a pacey striker anyway, and he Murray may be able to operate in tandem with Locadia.

For now, Brighton are favoured by the bookmakers to claw their way out of danger: sportsbetting.ag offers competitive odds, review them first and you will see that the Seagulls are given a good chance of success in their upcoming fixtures. In the relegation betting, five teams are ahead of them: Huddersfield, West Brom, Swansea, Stoke and Newcastle. Brighton are all the way out at 7/2 to go down, and it goes as forecast the Seagulls will achieve a creditable 15th placed finish. Right now most fans would probably bite your hand off for that.

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