Brighton and Hove Albion play host to Huddersfield Town on Saturday in what could be described as a quintessential six-pointer. Chris Hughton’s men currently have a three point advantage, and a game in hand, over their guests and know victory will all but assure a second season in the Premier League.
It’s integral that the Seagulls get points on the board. They’re not in a relegation battle just yet, currently in 13th position, but with Tottenham Hotspur, both Manchester clubs and Liverpool still to play, a slide down the table could be on the cards.
After a purple patch, Brighton have lost their last three games in all competitions and have failed to score in any of these defeats. However, in terms of their last ten games, Brighton find themselves in mid-table having picked up 12 points from the 30 on offer.
David Wagner and his team are in real danger, however. The form table has them in 19th and only West Brom have picked up fewer points in recent weeks. The Baggies are also the only team to have conceded more goals than the Terriers over the ten-game period. They’re winless in four matches and haven’t scored a league goal since February.
Hughton and his players have made the most of home comforts this season, picking up 24 points from the 16 games they’ve played at the Amex stadium at a rate of 1.5 per game. It puts them eighth when looking at points won at home this term.
Huddersfield are one of many in the Premier League who suffer with travel sickness. They are 17th in the table for away points accumulated, managing just 0.68 per match. It is perhaps one of the reasons they find themselves in a precarious position heading into the business end of the season.
Season defining stats
Both teams have managed to catch the eye in the odd game but consistency has eluded them.
Despite the fact Brighton have one of the league’s top scorers in Glenn Murray – only eight players have struck more goals than the 34-year-old – the Seagulls have struggled to find the back of the net on a regular basis.
Their season total of 28 works out at 0.9 goals per 90, only three teams have managed fewer and one of those is bottom of the table West Brom. Their xG (expected goals) total is 32.4 which shows the team have slightly underperformed, but when looking at goals scored without penalties included it’s 24.
However, their post-shot xG, which looks at what part of the target a strike went, total is 25.54, it paints a picture of a team who aren’t the best when it comes to finishing.
Lacking players who can add value to their shots is a problem, especially for sides who don’t create that many opportunities per 90 minutes. It will be no doubt something Hughton looks to address in the summer.
From a defensive point of view, Brighton are actually over-performing. Their xGA (expected goals against) and post-shot xG conceded totals are both 39. But, to the credit for Maty Ryan, they’ve only been breached on 34 occasions when penalties and own goals are removed. It’s a fairly big swing.
The Terriers don’t have more bite than the Seagulls. They’ve scored 25 goals this season at a rate of 0.78 per 90 minutes but when penalties are removed that total is 21 – 0.65 per 90 minutes. Wagner’s men have an xG of 25.33 and a post-shot xG of 22.3. In these two metrics they have underperformed.
The Premier League debutants are also somewhat under par when looking at their defensive data. They’ve been breached on 49 occasions (when penalties and own goals are excluded) but have an xGA total of 43.36.
However, the post-shot xG score of 48.32 shows they’ve come up against some clinical finishers and Jonas Lössl shouldn’t be too disheartened by the xG to goals conceded swing.
How the two teams compare stylistically
At first glance it wouldn’t appear as though Brighton and Huddersfield are anything alike.
The former seemingly like to get the ball into midfield quicker while the latter like to build from the back. The way they’re portrayed in the media it would appear as though Wagner has his side playing total football, or at least trying to while the home side on Saturday are more of a counter-attacking team.
However, the stats suggest otherwise. The Seagulls have, on average, 8.86 seconds in possession per phase of play, manage three passes and their attacks tend to start 42 metres away from their own goal.
Hudderfield’s stats are eerily similar. They average 8.63 seconds in possession, three passes and also start their attacks 42 metres away from Lössl. For context, the latter stat is where, on average, possession originates from.
The Terriers see 46.9 per cent of the ball each match, just 0.9 more than Brighton and their pass success rate is separated by just 1.2 per cent in favour of Hughton’s side.
While the hosts on Saturday average one shot more per game than their visitors. There’s really not much between them proving appearances can be deceptive.
Both match winners head into the game on something of a drought. Murray has failed to score in his last three and it’s his longest run of games without a goal since December. Brighton will be hopeful it’s nothing more than a blip and that his goalscoring touch will return sooner rather than later.
Steve Mounié, Huddersfield’s top scorer with six, has drawn a blank in his last four matches. Like Murray, before the goals dried up he was in a a purple patch having found the net four times in six games. The home side have conceded the most set piece goals this season (17) and Mounié’s dominance in the air (5.3 aerial duels won per 90) will more than likely see him get the nod ahead of Laurent Depoitre.
The forwards aren’t the only two key players expected to be on show. Brighton will be hopeful Pascal Groß can start pulling the strings again. He’s found the net on five occasions in his debut season with the club but it’s his playmaking abilities that have been invaluable.
He is, on average, creating 0.6 big chances and playing 1.22 open play key passes per 90 minutes. He’s the midfield maestro capable of creating something out of nothing. Grosß will be instrumental if Brighton are to bring their three game scoreless run to an end.
The Terriers will be looking to Alex Pritchard to make things happen. The January signing has a goal and an assist since his move but he’s been a creative force.
He’s completing 1.4 dribbles, 1.4 key passes and 1.04 open play key passes per 90 minutes. Aaron Mooy plays more key passes but as an overall package there’s no looking past the former Norwich City man.
With neither side wanting to lose on Saturday it looks set to be a tight affair. Huddersfield won the first match between these two sides earlier on in the season but their bubble has burst since then.
Wagner’s inexperience at this level appears to be playing a part while Hughton, in all honesty, would be in contention for the manager of the year award had it not been for Sean Dyche’s exploits with Burnley.
Brighton should be the favourites heading into the game and rightly so. Anything other than a win in this vital six-pointer will be seen as a missed opportunity having crunched the numbers.