Albion are on the road for the third game on the trot as they travel to Elland Road to face a Leeds United side who are back in the Premier League after a 16-year absence.
Since moving to the Amex, Brighton have more wins (8) against Leeds than any other side, with a goal difference of +11 against Saturday's hosts, Brighton's best record against any opponent.
Albion are unbeaten in ten of the 12 games they have played against Leeds and it has been a relatively goal-laden fixture with 35 goals between the sides across a dozen games. At the end of match week 17, Leeds were the most goal-heavy side in the Premier League this season. In whole numbers, 33 goals conceded is the second most of any side. The Whites sit fifth in the league for goals scored (30) with their matches averaging 3.7 goals per game, yet another chart-topping statistic. They have also netted eight times from outside the box this campaign – another top-flight high.
Leeds have already lost to Sussex opposition this season, knocked out of the Emirates FA Cup by League Two Crawley Town 3-0 last Sunday on the same day that Percy Tau made his Albion debut against Newport County.
The left-footed South African is set to face the most left-footed side in the league on Saturday, with Leeds topping the Premier League pile for left-footed passes made (3,877). Tau demonstrated his dynamism, directness and defensive abilities on his Premier League debut at Manchester City on Wednesday. Albion’s African starlet touched the ball 23 times in 67 minutes, with three shot-creating actions, 16 ball carries – including one into the penalty area – and 15 pressures to his name.
As a team, the Seagulls recorded their most pressures (169) in an away Premier League game this season. Alexis Mac Allister put in a performance that Graham Potter considered his best yet in the blue and white, with the Argentine leading Albion in multiple defensive metrics:
Alexis Mac Allister v Manchester City - ranked against Brighton players:— Albion Analytics (@AlbionAnalytics) January 14, 2021
🥇 24 pressures
🥇 10 successful pressures
🥇 10 ball recoveries
🥇 6 progressive passes
🥇 4 blocks
🥇 3 tackles
His best game yet. 🇦🇷 #BHAFC #MCIBHA pic.twitter.com/XNzQX2KpHK
If Alexis and Leeds are anything to go by, pressing may just be an Argentine thing. Marcelo Bielsa's side are the pressing team in the Premier League this season, sitting third for pressures (2,685) but top for successful pressures (872) and final third tackles (45), while the Yorkshiremen have created eight shots following a defensive action.
Kalvin Phillips has the most interceptions (26) of any of Bielsa's boys this season, but he will be serving a one match ban for the fixture after accumulating five yellow cards and will miss the chance to battle against Yves Bissouma who is back from suspension. He is Albion's top presser this season, with 105 defensive third and 115 midfield third pressures ranking him among the top 25 Premier League players in both metrics. The Malian midfielder's technical yet combative display at West Ham in December saw him win Brighton's performance of the month.
Yves Bissouma v West Ham - ranked against all players:— Albion Analytics (@AlbionAnalytics) December 27, 2020
🥇 16/21 final third passes completed
🥇 3/3 take-ons completed
🥇 15 ball recoveries
🥇 4 clearances
🥈 59/70 passes completed
🥈 3 successful tackles
Bossed the midfield. 🇲🇱 #BHAFC #WHUBHA pic.twitter.com/ZIb4q4pdwy
Ben White sits second only to Yves Bissouma in the Brighton pack for pressures (203) and successful pressures (69), and the 23-year-old is set to face his former club on Saturday. White spent last season on loan at Leeds and was an ever-present, featuring in all 46 games and topping the Championship charts for interceptions (115).
Leeds' Striker Patrick Bamford sits top of the Premier League charts for shots taken per game (3.96) and non-penalty Expected Goals (10.3), one of just seven players this season to have eclipsed the ten-goal threshold. Neal Maupay netted exactly ten last season and has four goal involvements (3 goals, 1 assist) in four games against Leeds.
While Bamford may better his six goals scored this campaign, the Frenchman has more impressive creative numbers. Albion's No.9 has recorded 29 shot-creating actions this season, seven better than Leeds' talisman while Maupay's 17 dribbles into the final third is more than three times what Bamford has clocked (5). Both Bamford (113) and Maupay (74) rank among the top 25 Premier League players for final third pressures this season, emphasising the extent to which both sides press.
Set pieces could well decide how the points are shared on Saturday, with (penalties excluded) Leeds (10) and Albion (8) two of the league's leakiest in conceding goals from dead ball situations. Brighton have bloomed in the set piece department recently, recording 19 shot-creating actions from dead balls in eight league matches since the start of December, six more than their opponents managed against them in those fixtures.
Both sides like to cross and share the crown for open play crosses completed into the penalty area (51). Such box bombardment is likely to test two of the youngest goalkeepers in the league. Leeds' Illan Meslier – aged 20 – is the youngest in the top flight, and he sits second for saves made (63), emphasising just how vulnerable Bielsa's all-out-attack style can make them.
Robert Sanchez showed his shot-stopping class against Manchester City, saving five of the six shots he faced, the most saves by any Albion goalkeeper in any domestic game this season. Sanchez (42) and Meslier (40) are the top two goalkeepers in the league this season for touches per game, underlining the role both play in build-up. Albion's Spanish shot-stopper has been involved in 16% of moves ending in a shot in his seven appearances, while that figure is 14% for Meslier.
Luke Ayling and Adam Webster are key players for both sides in build-up. Ayling has the most yards dribbled towards the opposition goal (4,517) of any player in Europe's top five leagues, while he leads the Leeds pack for final third passes (99), fouls won (23) and has completed an immense 20 of the 23 dribbles he has attempted this season.
Webster sits third in the Ayling-topped table and has dribbled the ball into the final third the most (38) of any Albion player this campaign. Webster ranked top among Brighton players for yards dribbled towards the opposition goal against Manchester City, the fifth game running he has topped the Albion charts in this metric:
Adam Webster v Manchester City - ranked against Brighton players:— Albion Analytics (@AlbionAnalytics) January 14, 2021
🥇 195 progressive yards dribbled (1 dribble into final third)
🥇 9 clearances
🥇 4 aerial duels won
🥇 3 opposition shots blocked
🥉 7 ball recoveries #BHAFC #MCIBHA pic.twitter.com/zlpsLiEKdA
Given Leeds' high press and man-marking style, Webster's ability to drive forward with the ball could be crucial in unlocking their defence. He could well be a tool to exploit their set piece frailties too, since not only did all three of Webster's goals last season come from set pieces but all were headed home on the road too.
Albion's No.4 has taken 16 shots this campaign, already level with the amount he took in the whole of last season, although he has shot the most of any Albion player this season without finding the net. He could not have come much closer, mind, rattling the woodwork with headers against Wolves and Fulham.