Brighton vs Burnley Preview: Both sides looking to pull away from the relegation places
(Photo: Getty Images: Alex Livesay)

Brighton vs Burnley Preview: Both sides looking to pull away from the relegation places

The two sides head in to the fixture five and two points above the bottom three respectively, and in need of points to avoid dropping into the relegation zone

Jordan Rushworth

With the Premier League season entering the final stages, with just 13 matches to play between now and the end of the season, Brighton and Hove Albion and Burnley will be looking to record a crucial victory at the Amex, with the game kicking off at 5:30 pm.

A win for either side would help create a more comfortable cushion above the divisions bottom three heading into the final 12 games of the season.

The two sides endured contrasting starts to the season, with Burnley struggling in the bottom three and Brighton looking comfortable in midtable. However, a recent dip in form for Brighton and upturn in form for Burnley, has seen the Clarets reduce the gap to their hosts to just three points, making this fixture take on extra significance.

Contrasting form

Brighton are winless in their last five Premier League games having drawn two and lost three of their league fixtures since the turn of the year. Chris Hughton's side enjoyed a good start to their second season back in the top flight, with six wins in their opening 15 matches.

However, Albion have won just once, a 1-0 victory at home to Everton at the end of December, in their last 10 league games which has seen a 12 point gap to the bottom three at the start of December reduced to just five points.

Burnley meanwhile are currently enjoying their best run of form in the Premier League for 10 months, having gone six matches unbeaten.

That unbeaten run has seen them record crucial victories against West Ham, Huddersfield Town and Fulham, whilst also picking up a point away to both Watford and Manchester United, before a stoppage-time penalty earned them a 1-1 draw at home to Southampton last weekend.  

Both Brighton and Burnley like to remain solid in defence with a well-drilled shape from which to build attacks. This has resulted in tight matches between the two sides, with their three Premier League meetings producing just a single goal, which came in Burnley's 1-0 win over Brighton at Turf Moor earlier in the season. Goals are once again likely to be difficult to come by meaning there will be added significance on scoring the opening goal of the game.

Can Hughton find winning formula?

Hughton made a host of changes for Brighton's 3-1 win at West Brom in the FA Cup 4th Round replay in midweek. One of those changes Florin Andone scored a late equaliser for Brighton as the game went into extra time. However, it was substitute Glenn Murray who came of the bench to score twice in extra time to fire Albion to the 5th Round.

The win at the Hawthorns was Hughton's sides first in six games in all competitions and he could face some selection dilemmas over who could maintain their place in the starting line up for the visit of Burnley.

Brighton will make a late fitness call on influential midfielder Dale Stephens, who missed their last league game against Watford through injury, while Jose Izquierdo has returned to training following a knee injury but may miss out on selection for this fixture.

Selection dilemma for Dyche

Burnley's recent upturn in form has coincided with a more consistent team selection, with Tom Heaton returning in goal, Ashley Westwood being given a run in midfield and Jeff Hendrick filling in on the right-hand side, with Aaron Lennon, Johan Berg Gudmundsson and Robbie Brady all missing recent games through injury.

However, while Heaton and Westwood, who have both been hugely influential in Burnley's recent good run, almost certain of retaining their places in the starting line up, Sean Dyche could have a difficult choice of whether to keep Hendrick on the right or bring in one of Gudmundsson or Brady, who were both involved from the bench last weekend having returned from injury.

The first goal will be key to this encounter and whoever manages to score it could well take a vital three points from this important fixture.