The past four seasons have been a mixed blessing for Brighton & Hove Albion fans. The Seagulls have played exciting, free-flowing football and reached the Championship play-offs on three occasions – only to agonisingly bow out in the semis each time.
However, this year’s crop of Brighton stars have an extra string to their bow – boasting the division’s strongest defence.
Chris Hughton’s men have chalked up nine clean sheets in 14 games. Along the way, they shut out fellow promotion contenders Sheffield Wednesday in a 1-0 win at the AMEX Stadium, and became the first team to win and keep a clean sheet in the league at Burton Albion in 33 games.
There’s no sign of that defensive stability letting up, with the centre-back pairing of Lewis Dunk and summer arrival Shane Duffy proving to be an ideal blend of pace, class and toughness.
Former Championship-winning boss Hughton has also built a midfield of players with an excellent track record at this level. Former Chelsea man Steve Sidwell won promotion from this level with Reading earlier in his career, while Anthony Knockaert was a vital part of Leicester City’s 2013-14 title triumph.
Paired with intelligent wingers like Jiri Skalak and Jamie Murphy, it’s no surprise that the East Sussex outfit have dominated the play in games this season – with hugely impressive possession stats on the road.
They’ve had the majority of the ball in four of their seven away games (with one 50/50 split), and have used that superiority wisely, with Burton Albion and Wigan Athletic both left chasing shadows on their own patch during possession-heavy 1-0 wins for the Seagulls in recent weeks.
And with a strike force containing the likes of Israeli hitman Tomer Hemed, who netted 17 Championship goals last season, as well as Premier League stalwart Glenn Murray and the hugely creative Sam Baldock – it doesn’t take a genius to realise they’ll be among the division’s higher scorers.
While Newcastle United look good for an automatic promotion spot right now, Brighton are next-best in the form book, and arguably boast the Championship’s most balanced squad, as well as a genuinely top-class midfield.
With the likes of Huddersfield Town, Norwich City and Sheffield Wednesday all dropping points and shipping goals, Brighton are well-equipped to finish in the automatic spots, while there’s a reasonable chance Newcastle could falter later in the season, having already lost twice at home.
Next up for the high-flying Seagulls is a home tie against Norwich on Saturday, with 11/8 for the hosts to enjoy victory against a Canaries side who lost at home to Preston last time out.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing