Brighton & Hove Albion take on Leeds United in the Premier League on Saturday afternoon.
Both sides have made excellent starts to the season with seven points from a possible nine, so it should be an entertaining encounter on the South coast.
After securing their highest top-flight placing in the club’s history with last season’s ninth-placed finish, Brighton have picked up from where they left off this time around, with a 0-0 draw at home against Newcastle United sandwiched by impressive away wins at Manchester United and West Ham United in the opening weeks of the campaign.
Despite the Seagulls making huge forward strides under the management of Graham Potter since he took over in 2019, both in terms of playing style and results, the most common shortcoming of Brighton under the former Swansea City boss was laid bare in that stalemate against Newcastle at the Amex Stadium: an inability to turn chances into as many goals as they should score.
Even last season, Brighton picked up 29 of their 51 points away from home, having only won five times and scored 19 goals in 19 games on home soil. This has created a curious discrepancy between the team’s tangible progress and the home fans’ general happiness at times.
As such, Saturday’s home match against an in-form Leeds side is arguably a much bigger game for Brighton than many neutrals may expect it to be, especially as it was after last season’s 0-0 draw at home against the Lilywhites when a loud minority of Brighton fans booed their team off the pitch in frustration, having seen their side dominate yet another match without the three points to show for it.
It would be fair to say this reaction left Potter utterly perplexed, with him remarking, “Maybe I need a history lesson on this club.” In reality, any pressure on the 47-year-old’s shoulders is minimal, though, especially after another brilliant performance from his team on the road against West Ham last time out, with Leandro Trossard wrapping up the victory after a vintage team move.
Still, he will undoubtedly want to improve on last season’s home record in order to potentially finish in an even higher position while keeping the home fans happy. If they can come out of the other side of Saturday’s test against Leeds with three points, Brighton could prove to be a very tough force to stop for any side this season.
Leeds, on the other hand, had a disappointing second season back in the Premier League having made such a positive impact upon their return, only narrowly escaping relegation after beating Brentford on the final day of the campaign.
It came with a heavy heart when Leeds’ board acted to replace Marcelo Bielsa with Jesse Marsch in the dugout in February earlier this year, especially given the bond that ‘El Loco’ had formed with the local fans and community after four years of exceptional service.
However, in hindsight at least, that decision looks to have been a necessary evil in order to preserve Leeds’ status as a Premier League club. Indeed, Marsch arrived at the club off the back of heavy defeats to Everton, Manchester United, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur left them looking near-certainties to be relegated and, although the 48-year-old lost his first two games in charge, too, only Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea have beaten them in the ensuing 13 matches since.
After a busy summer transfer window, which saw key players Raphinha and Kalvin Phillips replaced with five first-team players, last weekend’s 3-0 beating of Chelsea at Elland Road felt like a watershed moment for Marsch’s time in England. The American’s compatriots Brendan Aaronson – who robbed Edouard Mendy to score the opener – and Tyler Adams were both instrumental with their industriousness in midfield, while Rasmus Kristensen and Marc Roca have provided calming presences, too.
Luis Sinisterra is yet to start in the Premier League following his £22.5m move from Feyenoord but the Colombian winger did open his goalscoring account for the club in their 3-1 win against Barnsley in the EFL Cup on Wednesday. However, with the likes of Rodrigo, Jack Harrison and Daniel James all flourishing under Marsch’s tutelage, the 23-year-old may need to be patient before being considered in the manager’s first-choice XI.
Clearly, Leeds will travel to East Sussex full of confidence after their exceptional start, even if the former RB Leipzig boss will be trying to keep his players’ feet on the ground. Should they find themselves in front on Saturday, they still have plenty to prove when it comes to their defensive resilience, having thrown away a two-goal lead in their last away game at Southampton.
Potter made 11 changes in Wednesday’s 3-0 win away to Forest Green Rovers in the EFL Cup, suggesting that he has a clear first XI even at this early stage of the season.
Indeed, Brighton have named the same starting lineup in each of their opening three league games, with none of those 11 players travelling to Gloucestershire in midweek.
As such, it would be a surprise if Potter deterred from the same group of players at the weekend having made an excellent start to the season, although he will surely be tempted to hand new signing Pervis Estupinan a start at left wing-back in the near future, especially as this would allow Trossard to operate even higher up the pitch.
Jakub Moder remains sidelined for several months with the cruciate ligament rupture that he sustained towards the end of last season, but otherwise Brighton are unscathed.
Leeds, meanwhile, have more players on the treatment table, with Junior Firpo, Luke Ayling and Stuart Dallas all still some time away from returning to first-team action due to serious leg injuries.
Club captain Liam Cooper featured for the first time this season as one of nine changes Marsch made for their cup tie against Barnsley, but Patrick Bamford was not a part of the squad due to the adductor injury that he sustained against Southampton two weekends ago.
Marsch had revealed earlier this week that the forward was “looking good,” so there is a chance he could be involved from the substitutes’ bench against Brighton on Saturday.
Either way, it is extremely unlikely that Marsch will make any changes to the XI which performed incredibly well against Chelsea last time out in the Premier League, meaning Rodrigo will continue as the focal point of the side having scored four goals in three matches in a blistering start to his third season in England.
Brighton & Hove Albion possible starting lineup:
Sanchez; Veltman, Dunk, Webster; March, Caicedo, MacAllister, Trossard; Gross, Lallana; Welbeck
Leeds United possible starting lineup:
Meslier; Kristensen, Koch, Llorente, Struijk; Roca, Adams; James, Aaronson, Harrison; Rodrigo