When Burnley shook off their poor start to the season to demolish Bournemouth 4-0 in September, there was a widespread expectation that it was the beginning of a run that would lift the Clarets away from the bottom reaches of the table. Since then, nine league games have passed with just one win for last season’s surprise package, and they come into this weekend as marked underdogs for a home game with Brighton. While most people still feel that Burnley will escape relegation, no longer can it be seen as a foregone conclusion.
Brighton, for their part, come into this game off the back of consecutive wins that showcased their fighting spirit – a team togetherness that is reminiscent of Burnley last season. Having recovered from conceding a first-minute goal to defeat Huddersfield, the Seagulls picked up a stunning 3-1 win over rivals Crystal Palace in midweek despite the 25th-minute sending off of defensive stalwart Shane Duffy. Add to these games the 1-1 draw with Leicester City, and Brighton could finish this game unbeaten in four.
Burnley vs Brighton Prediction: Burnley 1-1 Brighton
Burnley are not a bad side. We know this because they qualified for the Europa League last season and they haven’t lost any key players. However, the punishment for their unexpected success is that everyone is now taking them seriously, and they’re finding every game tougher. This hurts confidence, and as anyone who follows football knows, both good and bad runs can be self-perpetuating. One thing we can be sure of is that this team will never down tools – and up against a similarly gritty (if limited) Brighton side, they’re good enough to pick up a point.
Our recommended tip: Draw
Both of these teams have demonstrated the power of having a tight, committed unit of players rather than splashing the cash to bring in superstars. Burnley were expected to spend much of last season battling the drop, while Brighton were tipped to fight the same fight, but see it end in April with summary relegation. When they come face to face, there will be a mutual respect between these sides, and the game will be short on chances due to both having well-drilled defences. The Seagulls may be marginal favourites here, but Burnley have enough about them to pick up a point.
Here’s a statistic for you – these sides have drawn their last five consecutive meetings, and the last time there was a winner in this head-to-head came back in August 2013, when Andrew Crofts and Leo Ulloa scored in a 2-0 win. Since then Ulloa has won a league title with Leicester City and is now on loan in Mexico, while Crofts turns out for Newport County.
Last season, both matches between these clubs ended in 0-0 draws – the closest they came to a goal across 180 minutes of football came when Glenn Murray missed a penalty at the AMEX Stadium in December 2017. It’s fair to expect another close game here.
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Players to watch: Robbie Brady & Florin Andone
While it would probably be overstating Brady’s value to the Burnley side if we suggested that his absence were the cause of their poor form this season, there’s no doubt that being without his energy and delivery on the left has been a headache Dyche could have done without. The Irishman has recently returned from a knee injury that kept him off the pitch for ten months and is slowly getting back to the dynamism that made him indispensable to club and country.
The suggestion that Glenn Murray could miss a game through injury would have struck fear into the hearts of Brighton fans just a few months ago. However, the bargain acquisition of Andone from Deportivo may just have provided the Seagulls with their next star. With bags of pace and a flair for spectacular goals, the Romanian provides a different problem to defenders than the aforementioned talisman, but his stunning solo goal against Crystal Palace – as a substitute for the injured Murray – has made fans sit up and take notice.