Analysis: Brighton on the brink of reaching the pinnacle of English football
BRIGHTON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 19: Head Coach Graham Potter of Brighton & Hove Albion after his side's 2-1 win during the Premier League match between Brighton & Hove Albion and Leicester City at American Express Community Stadium on September 19, 2021 in Brighton, England. (Photo by Robin Jones/Getty Images)

A robust and reliable backline is possibly the most important element of a football team; it is certainly paramount towards sustaining success over a lengthy period.

Such defensive quality can be confidently called upon by Graham Potter, head coach of a flourishing Brighton & Hove Albion squad that sit fourth in the Premier League table after five matches played. 

And indeed, this is a key area that establishes the base of what is shaping into a compelling and intriguing season for the Seagulls, and potentially defines the crucial forthcoming fixture against rivals Crystal Palace.

A match steeped in a peculiar rivalry, Palace versus Brighton has captivated the respective supporters for half a century – defined not by the footballing constraints of geographical location, this fixture’s feud arose in the 1970’s as the sides concurrently attempted a charge from the third division to the first, becoming entangled in a lingering conflict after a number of impassioned clashes. 

In the present, the sides meet once again in the Premier League, with the head-to-head record finely poised with merely a couple of wins between them.

Granted, Potter’s side have started the better this term, but in a fixture that breeds excitement and anticipation there is every chance that Palace could spoil the progression that has received lauded response after Brighton’s emphatic start. 

Sturdy backline the catalyst for success

Shane Duffy, Adam Webster, and Lewis Dunk. Three defenders that have been absolutely pivotal towards Brighton's endeavours over the recent period.

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Potter has got the south coast side playing smooth football but it is the reliable defence that provide the platform to create openings in attack, with the assurance of a capable base. 

With only four goals conceded across the five league matches played thus far, Brighton boast a defensive record currently bettered only by Chelsea and Manchester City.

With Yves Bissouma anchored in front of the defensive line the resilience is only further strengthened; alongside Wilfried Ndidi, the Malian midfielder is the only midfielder to reach 10+ tackles and interceptions in the division this season. 

A chance to sit atop the pyramid

It is something that would have been met with incredulous response only a few months ago, but now the prospect of Brighton residing at the peak of English football is very much attainable. 

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Due to results elsewhere in the division across match-week six, the Seagull's know that victory at Selhurst Park will leave Brighton perched atop the league, above every other club across the country.

It is a testament to Potter, developing the squad into an outfit with fluidity and unity that aids the newfound clinical edge that has left the club battling against the top outfits in the division.

Regardless of Monday's outcome, Brighton and Potter can hold their heads high at the progress that has been made over the past year.

Brighton are now a team that are more than capable of competing with any side they come across, evidenced by victory over FA Cup winners Leicester City. 

A finely poised fixture

The M23 derby has long been a tightly contested affair; the Seagulls currently boast 40 victories over Monday’s opposition, whilst Palace only trail by two wins, standing at 38. 

With 27 additional draws to add to the fray it is clear to see that these are two sides that produce memorable and unpredictable encounters each time they grace the pitch. 

It is in fact Palace that edge the fixture across recent years, Brighton after winless across the past four meetings, although the two wins achieved during this run both occurred at the AMEX Stadium. 

Brighton will take comfort in their unbeaten run across the previous three trips to Selhurst Park, and may well be galvanised by their newfound ruthlessness to turn the tide in their favour. 

The tale of the talisman 

Let's talk about the talisman. Yes, it's early in the season but both teams are showing encouraging signs of harnessing a clinical edge that has somewhat evaded them in recent memory.

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Neal Maupay has excelled as Brighton's centre forward thus far, scoring three times across five outings. Last season, Maupay only managed eight strikes, failing to recapture his form from previous seasons. 

Odsonne Edouard - freshly signed from esteemed Scottish outfit Celtic - will be desperate to receive a maiden start in the Premier League after a resounding entrance off the bench, where he scored twice against Tottenham Hotspur.

In what is projected to be a heated and tense showing, the respective forwards will need to be alert and sharp if they are to give their team the edge.

The verdict

Despite Brighton's success across their endeavours at the start of the 21/22 season, victory in London will not come easy. Palace are establishing cohesion and understanding across the squad following Patrick Viera's appointment as head coach, replacing beloved manager Roy Hodgson.

A deafening Palace crowd will undoubtedly aid the home side's chances, but Potter's men boast a 100% record away from home this season and will relish the chance to silence the masses.

A draw may well be the result upon the matches conclusion, but Brighton are certainly capable of securing a win to reach unprecedented heights.