Stakes don’t come much bigger than this as 17th place Brighton play host to 18th place Cardiff City at the Amex Stadium on Tuesday night – Fulham and Huddersfield are already down, so it truly is a race to the bottom for these two sides in a game which will have huge ramifications in deciding which of them will secure that coveted final relegation place.
Maybe not coveted, but listen, the parachute payments used to be worse.
In any case, it’s a massive game for both and it’s Chris Hughton’s men who have the upper hand heading into this one. The Brighton boss might have overseen a heavenly run to the FA Cup semi-final against Man City, but there they were struck down by a vengeful Jesus whose goal burst the Seagulls’ bubble and brought them crashing back down to the reality of the relegation scrap.
Yet, despite the distraction of an unlikely cup adventure, a run of three consecutive losses in the league and the fact that his side has taken just eight points from the last possible 36, Hughton still finds Brighton marginally above the drop zone. That’s because his men have a five-point advantage and a game in hand over their opponents who are in a far worse state right now.
Cardiff boss Neill Warnock may have said his side “live to fight another day” after their 2-0 defeat to Burnley at the weekend, but six defeats from their last seven league outings – with just four goals scored in that period – suggests his outfit have about as much fight left in them at this stage as Huddersfield – who are already relegated.
If the Bluebirds want to give themselves any chance of staying up, they absolutely must win here, but their away form is atrocious. Cardiff are the only side in the top flight yet to hit double-digits in the ‘Goals For’ column away from home. Even the two relegated sides below them have scored 11 apiece on their travels – Cardiff have scored just nine times from 16 away games, losing 12 of those.
One crumb of hope the Welsh side will bring with them to Brighton is that they won the last meeting between these teams 2-1 back in November thanks to a late winner from Sol Bamba – but the Ivory Coast centre-back has been conspicuous by his absence since he was ruled out for the remainder of the campaign due to damaging knee ligaments during the 2-0 defeat to Wolves in March.
Warnock will also be pushing his players to exploit Brighton’s wonky home form – they’ve lost four of their last six on the south coast, with their last outing in front of the Albion faithful being a 5-0 demolition job by Bournemouth on Saturday. Add to that the fact Cardiff have lost just once in the last seven meetings between these sides and maybe they’re not completely screwed.
Given that the very Premier League survival of both clubs is at stake, the question becomes: will they throw caution to the wind or just play cautiously? We reckon it’ll be a scrappy affair and given Cardiff’s impotency in front of goal away from home and the fact Brighton haven’t scored in three games, we like the look of the draw at 11/5 and under 1.5 goals (7/4) in a double here.
* All odds correct at time of posting.