Last updated & checked: 10/08/2021
With a Premier League side playing at home to a Championship team, the ingredients for a cup upset are in place on the South Coast this weekend. Graham Potter’s Brighton side have been winning friends with a more progressive approach to the game than the Seagulls managed under former boss Chris Hughton, but they are on pretty much the same points total that Hughton historically managed by this stage in the season. It’s also not an approach that tends to fare well in the bitter cold of a January evening.
Wednesday, for their part, are just outside the Championship play-off spots and, with a fair wind, could yet return to the Premier League after a 20-year absence. Under boss Garry Monk, who continues his bid to work his way through every team in England’s second tier, the Owls are frustratingly inconsistent, but they tend to deliver their best performances against teams above them in the table. Could they pick up a win to reward their fans for the long journey here?
Brighton and Hove Albion vs Sheffield Wednesday Prediction: Brighton and Hove Albion 2-0 Sheffield Wednesday
The holiday season has not been kind to Wednesday – three defeats in seven days have included reverses at the hands of Stoke and Cardiff City. It could be argued that a cup run is exactly what they don’t need right now, given that it would probably end prematurely and distract from getting their form back in the league. Brighton, meanwhile, are enjoying life – they’ve picked up points in their last two games and have begun to see the best of Iranian attacker Alireza Jahanbakhsh, whose exceptional strike against Chelsea may be the best goal of 2020 so far (!).
Our recommended tip: Aaron Connolly to score
It’s widely agreed that part of what has endeared Potter to the Brighton fans is the way the boss has invested in the transfer market; the likes of Neal Maupay and Adam Webster seem certain to improve under Premier League conditions and the tutelage of their innovative manager. However, one of the most exciting discoveries of the current regime is one who came through the age group pathway: Galway-born Aaron Connolly has the skill set necessary to become a big star, and may well get a deserved start here with Potter likely to make a few changes coming out of a busy festive period. At 7/4 to score, he’s got a real chance to make an impact here.
Brighton’s approach of cautious evolution means that they have a lot of players still active at the club who were in action the last time these sides met; Wednesday have been through a few managers in the intervening years, and will field a very different starting XI. That’s probably no bad thing for the Owls, who failed to take advantage of the Seagulls losing Glenn Murray to a red card with the scores tied at 1-1 when they met here in the Championship at the outset of 2017. Although Murray left the field with 25 minutes still to play, it was Brighton who finished stronger, Anthony Knockaert helping himself to a second goal, which allowed the hosts to win 2-1.
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Players to watch: Alireza Jahanbakhsh & Atdhe Nuhiu
One of the most exciting aspects of Brighton’s season has been the development of Iranian international Jahanbakhsh, who performed excellently for his country at the 2018 World Cup but seemed out of sorts in his debut Premier League campaign. Playing in a more suitable wide role under a new boss, the player has looked like a man transformed, scoring an incredible bicycle kick to earn his side a more than deserved point against Chelsea in the sides’ recent meeting.
Nuhiu has become a cult hero among Owls fans, and begins 2020 hoping to achieve a measure of personal glory by shooting his home nation of Kosovo to a spot at this summer’s Euro 2020. The striker is neither the most mobile nor the neatest player, but his work rate in the opposing penalty area and his competitive approach to the game make him the perfect forward for any side looking to upset the odds – so he’s the ideal man for both the Owls in this match, and Kosovo throughout the first half of the year.