I wrote a blog analysing the impact I thought the enforced break might have on Premier League teams and using examples of what had occurred in the Bundesliga to support a series of hypothesis. One of those was that the break might benefit the clubs in the lower half of the league re-set their seasons after poor runs of form.
As far as Brighton are concerned that has very much been the case with the Seagulls able to take 4 vital points from their opening 3 games against sides with much loftier ambitions including a first win of 2020 against Arsenal. That little run has pulled them 6 points clear of relegation and you would have to fancy that a win here today would see them safe.
By contrast, Norwich have been truly awful since the return from lockdown. You would generally expect a side near the bottom to at least rally for a short while and put in a couple of performances that suggested they wanted to fight for survival but that has not happened. Ultimately, Norwich don't have the quality to stay up but we have seen enough from in some of their Premier League games as well as a decent cup run to show they can give it go when they want to.
It struck me as quite strange that Daniel Farke decided to rest several of his star men for the home game against Everton on 24th June undoubtedly in preparation for the FA Cup QF against Manchester United. It was a clear indication that even with 8 games to go the club felt that the 6 point gap between them and safety was too much to close and their priority was a cup run. That game against United was Norwich's best performance since the re-start by some way and had they have held on for a little longer and taken the game to penalties then with Tim Krul and his water bottle in goal (see thumbnail) then who knows?
Goals have been a major problem for Norwich. They have not scored in any of their league games since the re-start and haven't looked likely to either with expected goals in those 3 games recorded at 0.65, 0.38 and 0.15 respectively. Teemu Pukki was every fantasy manager's dream earlier in the season but only the eternally hopeful would be maintaining Norwich's top-scorer in their sides at the moment - he hasn't scored in his last 8 Premier League games. Given that Norwich have shipped more goals since the end of lockdown than any other club you can see why hopes of survival have faded pretty quickly in East Anglia.
By contrast, Brighton have been very solid at the back. Yes, they conceded 3 goals against an inform Manchester United side in their last outing but their expected goals against in their 3 games so far is the 3rd best in the league behind only Wolves and United themselves. 10 of the Seagulls 34 goals this season have come from set-pieces and they will fancy adding to that tally today against a Norwich side that has the 2nd worst defensive record from set-pieces in the league.
I doubt this is going to be a classic affair and you can pick up odds @1.8 for under 2.5 goals. Equally, Adam Webster to score anytime @15.5 looks fantastic value. I've seen the big centre back play many times for his former club Bristol City and he is a real handful in the box from set-pieces having already netted 3 times in his debut season in the Premier League.
Ultimately though I think the best value on this match can be found on Brighton to win. They still have a couple of very tough fixtures to come after this one in the form of Liverpool and Manchester City so I am sure that Graham Potter will have them motivated for this game with the message that they can get the job done with a win here.
Prediction: Brighton to win @2.28 or better
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