With Chelsea’s attack misfiring again, forward Romelu Lukaku came on at halftime for his first serious minutes in a month, and it made all the difference.
While there’s plenty to criticize about Chelsea’s performances over the last month, there is no doubting that the involvement of Lukaku is a game-changer for the Blues, and with him in the lineup they are true title contenders. And his return came just in time: The Blues sit nine points back of leaders Manchester City, and no longer have any room for error.
That will be tested as draw masters Brighton Hove & Albion come to town, winners of just one game since September, but a team with a knack for sharing the spoils with the stronger clubs. Brighton has held both Arsenal and Liverpool to draws, with the latter result coming at Anfield, so a trip to Stamford Bridge won’t rattle the visitors.
Brighton’s victory over Brentford in its last outing ended an 11-match winless run, but the club only lost three times in that span as well. Sitting ninth in the table, the Seagulls have found key goals when needed to secure points, and could present a challenge for a Chelsea side not playing its best football of the season and with continued personnel issues.
How to watch Chelsea vs. Brighton
- Date: Wednesday, Dec. 29
- Time: 2:30 p.m. ET
- TV channel: —None—
- Spanish-language TV: —None—
- Streaming: Peacock
The match will not be televised, but it will be streamed exclusively on NBC Sports streaming platform Peacock.
Chelsea vs. Brighton projected lineups
The Blues have serious issues among its squad players, with both N’Golo Kante and Thiago Silva coming off injured on Boxing Day, and the congested festive fixtures provide no opportunity to heal up. Kante’s problem is a recurrence of his previous knee injury, while Silva had a hamstring problem, but manager Thomas Tuchel hopes he was withdrawn before it got too serious.
Midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek could possibly return from his ankle injury, but his availability remains to be determined. Forwards Kai Havertz and Timo Werner remain in COVID-19 protocols, and given COVID-19 timelines, plus their lack of recent game action, it would be tough to imagine them being available just two days after missing out entirely on the Aston Villa victory.
Christian Pulisic deputized up front in the first half against Aston Villa, and was moved to wingback after halftime to make room for Lukaku. But he still feels like an unnatural fit in the Thomas Tuchel system and could drop to the bench if Lukaku is fit enough for a full 90 minutes.
Chelsea projected starting lineup (3-4-2-1): Mendy (GK); Christensen, Rudiger, Chalobah; Alonso, Kovacic, Jorginho, James; Hudson-Odoi, Mount; Lukaku.
Brighton is still missing a number of key players, an injury list that contributed to the long winless run. Lewis Dunk is out until late January, while Jurgen Locadia is still down with COVID-19.
Joel Veltman is a game-time decision due to fatigue, while Shane Duffy is struggling with post-COVID-19 symptoms. Leandro Trossard, who scored the opener in the Boxing Day win, is also iffy due to a hamstring problem, and he will be a last-minute selection decision for manager Graham Potter.
Midfielder Yves Bissouma returns from a suspension and should slide back into the starting lineup, with Potter needing to decide whom between Enock Mwepu or Jakuub Moder to withdraw to make room.
Brighton projected starting lineup (4-4-2 diamond): Sanchez (GK); Cucurella, Burn, Webster, Lamptey; Mwepu, Lallana, Bissouma, MacAllister; Maupay, Trossard.
Chelsea vs. Brighton betting pick & prediction
Odds courtesy of DraftKings
The Blues haven’t looked sharp the last few weeks, but squad constraints have been a big reason why. With Lukaku likely fit enough to start, this Chelsea team should be much more venemous up top. A goal and an assist last time out for the Belgian shows he is ready to reestablish himself as the club’s scoring talisman.
Chelsea and Brighton have matched up 10 times previously across all competitions, and Brighton has never won, with seven losses and three draws. Two of those draws have come in the last three meetings, but only one of those happened at Stamford Bridge, where the Blues have an otherwise umblemished record against the Seagulls.
Pick: Lukaku to score & Chelsea to win (+125)
Prediction: Chelsea 2, Brighton 0
- Moneyline: Chelsea -240 / Draw +360 / Brighton +750
- Spread: Chelsea -1.5 (+120) / Brighton +1.5 (-135)
- O/U 2.5 total goals: Over -115 / Under -110
- Both teams to score: Yes +110 / No -140
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