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Brighton & Hove Albion are at Turf Moor tomorrow, bringing an end to a season that kicked off fifty weeks ago today with a 3-0 home win against Southampton.

It seems an age ago now. In football terms it is. Right now, had this been normal world, we’d have been right in the thick of the pre-season ahead of a fifth succession year in the Premier League. The enforced shutdown, and then the almost two games per week schedule, have brought us to tomorrow’s end, some ten weeks later than originally scheduled.

In terms of our position in the league, any fear of relegation was extinguished some time ago. I always thought that we were safe once we’d beaten Bournemouth in February and that’s going to be the case.

Instead of looking over our shoulders we’ve been constantly looking up and no matter what happens tomorrow we will have a top half finish. We are currently ninth but could move up one or down one place depending on results. A win tomorrow would ensure we don’t go down and if that were a better result than Sheffield United could get at Southampton then we’d be up to eighth place.

Any positive result would take us above our current 54 points and a new Premier League record for ourselves and we also know that if we can keep a clean sheet that Nick Pope will at the very worst have a share of this season’s  Golden Glove having already kept 15 clean sheets this season, another Premier League record for us.

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There was even a glimpse of qualifying for Europe again but that disappeared last week with acting captain James Tarkowski saying: “To be missing out on the chance of Europe going into the last game is a bit of a downer but it’s been a terrific season, especially since we’ve come back. We’ve really stuck at it and put some great points on the board with some great performances.

“It’s been a pleasure these last few weeks and let’s finish it with a good one on Sunday. It keeps it exciting for a few people, the last day. For us, it’s hopefully get that clean sheet for Popey and get that record points total. It’s a good game for us. The lads are feeling really good and looking forward to the final game.”

Tarkowski will not only want to be playing in tomorrow’s game but ensuring he’s there at the end. That would mean, like goalkeeper Nick Pope, he will have played in every minute of all our Premier League games this season, following on from Ben Mee last season and Jack Cork in 2017/18.

There isn’t too much Sean Dyche can do with the team. Charlie Taylor has now been added to the ‘out for the rest of the season’ group and it means we’ve only thirteen players with any first team experience in the Premier League, other than the couple of minutes Max Thompson got at Manchester City, so I wouldn’t expect any changes when the team is revealed tomorrow.

I’d expect our team to be: Nick Pope, Phil Bardsley, Kevin Long, James Tarkowski, Erik Pieters, Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson, Josh Brownhill, Ashley Westwood, Dwight McNeil, Jay Rodriguez, Chris Wood. Subs: Bailey Peacock-Farrell, Jimmy Dunne, Anthony Glennon, Mace Goodridge, Josh Benson, Robbie Brady, Max Thompson, Joel Mumbongo, Matěj Vydra.

Having retained their place in the Premier League last season, Brighton made the surprise move to replace manager Chris Hughton and replace him with Graham Potter who had just spent the previous season at Swansea.

Under Potter, they can now look forward to a fourth successive season in the top flight having pulled clear of relegation with nine points from their eight games since the restart and today’s news suggests they will be looking forward with new signings in their squad. South Korean international Lee Geum-min has already joined them on a season long loan and Adam Lallana is set to sign after leaving Liverpool.

It all got off to a good start for Brighton after the restart with a home win against Arsenal while a win at Norwich in early July looked to have give them enough breathing space over the bottom clubs. Despite them losing the next two games, albeit against Liverpool and Manchester City, draws against Southampton and Newcastle have ensured there can be no concerns for them tomorrow with a now four point advantage over both Aston Villa and Watford who will be fighting it out with Bournemouth in trying to avoid the two remaining relegation places.

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One player to watch will definitely be French striker Neal Maupay (pictured). He’s scored ten goals in his first Premier League season having moved from Brentford last summer and he’s promising a bigger return next season.

Potter has an almost fully fit squad to select from with just José Izquierdo and Steven Alzate unavailable. Izquierdo hasn’t played since April last year because of a knee injury while Alzate has been out since February with a groin injury.

Brighton drew 0-0 against Newcastle at the Amex Stadium last Monday, they lined up for that game: Mat Ryan, Tariq Lamptey, Lewis Dunk, Adam Webster, Dan Burn, Dale Stephens, Yves Bissouma, Leandro Trossard, Pascal Groß, Aaron Mooy, Neal Maupay. Subs: David Button, Shane Duffy, Martín Montoya, Alexis Mac Allister, Solly March, Davy Pröpper, Alex Cochrane, Glenn Murray, Aaron Connolly.

 

LAST TIME THEY WERE HERE

 

When Brighton last visited Turf Moor things weren’t looking too good for us. It was December 2018, we hadn’t won in eight games and were next to bottom of the table, squeezed between Southampton and Fulham with all of us sat on nine points from fifteen games. Brighton were tenth with 21 points.

A win was needed more than anything else and that’s what we got on a horrible day of pouring rain and strong winds although the game was very much a scrappy affair.

It was a day when the defenders were the outstanding players, the two central defenders and right back Phil Bardsley in particular, and it was one of the three,  James Tarkowski, who scored the only goal of the game five minutes before half time.

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Brighton, as they had done in the previous season, had come to stifle and try to earn a point from a 0-0 draw. They’d succeeded in that previous season but, thankfully, not this time.

The goal was sort of fitting for the game in that it was scrappy. When a ball came in, goalkeeper Mat Ryan, who had spent most of the first half time wasting, tried to punch it away. It dropped for Jack Cork who we thought had scored but the ball hit Tarkowski in the stomach on the way in.

They all count and this one did – it got us two places up the table and out of the bottom three.

The teams were;

Burnley: Joe Hart, Phil Bardsley, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Charlie Taylor, Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson (Aaron Lennon 72), Ashley Westwood, Jack Cork, Robbie Brady, Ashley Barnes (Jeff Hendrick 85), Chris Wood. Subs not used: Tom Heaton, Matt Lowton, Kevin Long, Matěj Vydra, Sam Vokes.

Brighton: Mat Ryan (his look-a-like 40), Bruno, Lewis Dunk, Leon Balogun, Bernardo, Anthony Knockaert (Jürgen Locadia 63), Davy Pröpper, Yves Bissouma, Solly March, Pascal Groß (Dale Stephens 79), Florin Andone (Glenn Murray 63). Subs not used: Jason Steele, Ben White, Gaëtan Bong, Beram Kayal.

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