Will Tariq Lamptey play against Norwich? Is Brighton wingback fit to start at Carrow Road?
After more than 300 days without a Premier League appearance, Tariq Lamptey is finally nearing a return.
The youngster endured a series of hamstring problems last season after sustaining an injury in Albion’s 0-0 draw at Fulham in December.
However, following a 45-minute appearance against Swansea in the Carabao Cup and then three consecutive Premier League games on the bench, Lamptey may be pencilled into Graham Potter’s next starting lineup against Norwich on Saturday.
Joel Veltman and Pascal Gross have suitably deputised at right wing back in his absence, but neither player has truly been able to replace what Lamptey offers in attacking areas.
Mostly found hugging the right touch line, Lamptey often looked to stretch the opposition, using his pace and direct running to cause defences problems.
The club arguably missed these probing runs until Marc Cucurella’s arrival from Getafe; the Spaniard has since offered a similar attacking threat on the left flank.
The prospect of Lamptey and Cucurella attacking opponents from either side of the pitch has no doubt excited Albion fans, especially as the duo are only 21 and 23 years old respectively.
The major question mark remains whether Lamptey will be able to reach the same lofty levels of performance as he did pre-injury.
Most worryingly for Potter, Lamptey’s natural style of play used to be one of extreme intensity, with speed, stamina and physicality at the forefront of his game.
If the right back plays with this high-octane approach on his return from injury, there’s every chance a recurring hamstring issue will manifest and shackle his development even further.
When Michael Owen burst onto the scene in the early 1990s for Liverpool, his swift speed and movement were the most formidable aspects of his game.
However, after a series of hamstring problems, Owen was forced to adapt his style of play and was almost a completely different player for Real Madrid and Manchester United later in his career.
We’ve witnessed the same with Ousmane Dembele more recently, who joined Barcelona for £140 million and suffered a hamstring tear on his debut.
Whilst there’s no denying the Frenchman’s talent, he has regrettably had to slow down and instead work on his technical game.
Fortunately, according to Potter when he spoke ahead of Albion’s clash with Crystal Palace, Lamptey confronted the recovery process maturely and responsibly.
Potter revealed: “How [Lamptey] has conducted himself, how he has worked, it is inspirational really to everybody.
“His resilience, his mental strength and his capacity to deal with adversity - I think that is credit to him and his family.”
Although Lamptey must approach the visit to Carrow Road with caution, he may go head-to-head against England under-21 right back competitor Max Aarons.
Both Aarons and Lamptey have seemingly lost their place to Southampton youngster Tino Livramento in the short-term; an exceptional performance at the weekend could however raise the eyebrows of England under-21 manager Lee Carsley.
After such a strong start to the Premier League campaign, Brighton are in no need to force Lamptey’s return before a full recovery.
However, as Norwich are placed right at the foot of the Premier League table, Potter may feel it’s finally time to ease Lamptey back amongst the starters.