CHAMPIONS LEAGUE contenders Tottenham host relegation-threatened Brighton in the capital and Gab Sutton (@_FootbalLab) picks his best bet.
Tottenham v Brighton | Tuesday 23rd April 2019, 19:45 | Sky Sports
Chris Hughton is roundly considered one of the best full-backs to have played for Tottenham Hotspur.
He helped Keith Burkinshaw’s side to back-to-back FA Cups in 1980-81 and 1981-82, before being part of the UEFA Cup winning team two seasons later during a 13-year stint at White Hart Lane.
Hughton though returns to N17 under some pressure as manager of Brighton.
A fortuitous 2-1 win at rivals Crystal Palace appeared to have steered his side to safety, but the subsequent five-game goalless streak has left them just three points above the relegation zone with a tough-looking remaining four games.
Can the 60-year-old mastermind an unlikely shock at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium?
Tottenham’s busy period
Tottenham lost 1-0 at Manchester City on Saturday lunchtime, just three days after completing a historic 4-4 aggregate away goals win in the Champions League knockout stage against the same opposition.
Although it would be a stretch to say Spurs deserved to avoid defeat in the Premier League meeting, it is impressive that they are able to navigate these fixtures with a depleted squad and remain competitive.
Harry Kane’s long-term injury has forced Mauricio Pochettino to give more attacking licence to the likes of Lucas Moura and Son Heung-Min, with target man Fernando Llorente often deployed as an impact substitute.
This is a busy period for the North Londoners who, having settled quickly into their new home, play the seventh of 12 matches within a 42-day period.
They host rivals West Ham on Saturday, before the small matter of their first Champions League/European Cup Semi-Final since 1962.
Tottenham already have a much stronger goal difference than Chelsea and Manchester United, the teams outside the top four, so the margin of their victory is unlikely to impact their chances of Champions League qualification.
For that reason, their idea of a successful night’s work may be sound game management and conserving energy through effective ball retention.
Brighton travelled to Wolves on Saturday off the back of five consecutive defeats, including a 5-0 home trouncing by Bournemouth and an equally damaging AMEX loss to Cardiff, who scored twice without reply.
The poor form led to major questions being asked of the togetherness of the group and Chris Hughton’s management, so avoiding another defeat with a solid defensive display in that 0-0 draw was imperative.
Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy can be very strong centre-backs in a Premier League relegation dogfight and they showed that at Molineux, producing several brave blocks in commanding displays.
Although the performance result held certain positives for Albion, however, it could not be classified as a good display.
The Seagulls lost the xG count significantly, with Wolves out-shooting them 22-5 and by 5-0 in terms of on-target efforts.
Plus, that was a Wanderers side short of quality in the gaps between midfield and attack; Tottenham are stronger in that department with the likes of Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli capable of producing the finishing touches to attacking moves and creating clear-cut chances.
Brighton’s change in performances
Hughton’s troops have conceded 16 goals in nine games against Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea Arsenal and Tottenham combined in the Premier League this term – that’s 1.77 goals per game on average.
The so-called ‘big six’ average 2.05 goals per game, which shows that Brighton have restricted their standard attacking output by 16%.
Conversely, Brighton average 10 shots per game this season and 6.55 shots per game against the ‘big six’ – if we simplistically take number of shots to denote a team’s attacking intent, then Brighton’s intent declines by approximately 35% against those sides.
In laymen’s terms, this means the Seagulls take few chances going forward against teams possessing more individual quality, but they can be relatively effective at restricting their attacking output.
The Betting Angle
Nine of Tottenham’s 11 matches against non-big six opposition have seen them win a game that sees fewer than five goals scored.
The two exceptions were the 5-0 win over Bournemouth – who had 14 shots, played 475 passes and pushed their full-backs relatively high – and the 3-1 loss to a Wolves side who counter-attacked ruthlessly late on.
Brighton’s sturdy setup against the top sides, especially away, would suggest they are unlikely to concede five goals in the manner that Bournemouth did, or be as strong up top as Wolves.
Over the last four games, Brighton’s Expected Goals For (xGF) rating reads 0.32, by far the lowest in the Premier League.
For comparison, Fulham post the second lowest xGF in that sample yet almost treble their quality and volume of chance creation at 0.90.
Ladbrokes offer 4/6 on Tottenham to win with Under 4.5 Goals, which looks good value – while we can expect Albion to be organised, they are highly unlikely to pose any kind of threat going forward.
Tottenham v Brighton – Tottenham to win and Under 4.5 Goals (4/6 Ladbrokes)