Two key factors that could work in Brighton's favour against Crystal Palace

By Ben Willcocks

Thursday, 18th February 2021, 3:05 pm
Updated Thursday, 18th February 2021, 3:06 pm
An injury to Wilf Zaha and the return of Tariq Lamptey could work in Brighton's favour this Monday

Crystal Palace have made a habit of leaking early goals of late, conceding during the opening five minutes in each of their last three Premier League outings.

Although the Eagles managed to comeback from Jonjo Shelvey’s second minute opener against Newcastle earlier this month, they struggled to respond against Leeds and Burnley, who both scored inside the first five minutes, courtesy of Jack Harrison and Johann Gudmundsson respectively.

To make matters worse, Crystal Palace’s potency in front of goal has diminished since Wilfred Zaha’s hamstring injury. Alarmingly, after the 3-0 defeat to Burnley at the weekend, Roy Hodgson’s side have now lost 18 of their last 20 games without the Ivory Coast international.

Roy Hodgson is yet to give an update on Zaha’s availability ahead of their trip to the Amex, but given the delicate nature of hamstring injuries, he remains a major doubt for the derby.

Conversely, Albion have turned a corner since the new year and are undefeated in their last six Premier League matches, having beaten Spurs, Liverpool and Leeds in that time.

Brighton, who boast a superior goal difference to their rivals, could leapfrog the Eagles in the table with a win at the Amex on Monday.

As the home team and the side in form, Potter must be eager to stamp his authority on the game in the early going and put Palace under pressure from the first whistle.

Deploying a high defensive line and operating with a high press in midfield would force the visitors to camp in and around their own box, and allow Albion to dominate the game.

Although this could potentially leave Brighton susceptible to counterattacks, Palace are unlikely to pose the same threat on the break without Zaha, who has scored 9 goals in the Premier League so far this season.

Christian Benteke is the next best striker in terms of goals for Palace, accruing three since the start of the season, but the Belgian is more of a target man and hold-up player than a threat on the counterattack.

Crystal Palace’s main struggle during this poor run of form has been keeping the ball in midfield and maintaining possession. Hodgson deployed a 4-4-2 against Burnley with Luka Milivojevic and Jairo Riedewald in the middle of the park, who are both predominantly renowned as defensive-minded players.

This, in turn, forced Palace’s wide men, Jordan Ayew and Eberechi Eze, to roam in field and support the holding midfielders, which left plenty of space on the flanks for the Clarets to exploit once the ball was retained.

Even Burnley’s right-back Matthew Lowton, who is not known for charging forward from defence, took advantage of Palace’s frailty in wide areas and scored his first Premier League goal since 2013.

Therefore, the return of Tariq Lamptey could be a timely one for Brighton this weekend. Potter has been without his marauding full back since the 16th December, but he is believed to have made a recovery ahead of Monday’s clash.

That said, Lamptey is unlikely to walk straight back into the starting eleven immediately: Joel Veltman, who has been a dependable deputy in Lamptey’s absence, should keep his place on the right flank.

The talented youngster could instead provide Potter with an added injection of energy off the bench, which may prove valuable in a tight affair.

Three points against Palace would give Brighton a real opportunity to kick on and challenge for the top half come the end of the season and firmly squander any lingering relegation concerns.