Former Brighton & Hove Albion defender Gary Chivers has emphasised the importance of nullifying Eden Hazard when the Seagulls host Chelsea at the Amex Stadium this afternoon.
The centre half, who plied his trade for both of today’s teams during his career, previewed the contest on the south coast and singled out one member of the visiting opposition as being key.
He said, “From Brighton’s perspective it’ll be a tough one because although Chelsea are a side who’ve been a bit indifferent in recent weeks, their last performance in the league against Manchester City was a great one.
“The side took their chances last weekend – Eden Hazard playing up front was their trump card in many ways because not many people expected that.
“Most would assume that either Olivier Giroud or Alvaro Morata would play as a striker, but Hazard went into that role. He had pace either side of him and when they had the ball it really looked dangerous.
“Hazard drifts into spaces between the back four and middle four, you don’t want him running at you with the ball because he’s one of the best players in the Premier League – if Albion are to get a result then they’ll have to stop him as well as being solid overall defensively.”
Albion’s last Premier League contest on home soil was the 3-1 victory over Crystal Palace under the Amex Stadium lights, thanks to goals from Glenn Murray, Leon Balogun and Florin Andone.
Chivers reflected on a memorable evening and highlighted the competition for places within the squad, emphasising the options Chris Hughton now has at his disposal following a busy summer of recruitment.
“Much is made of the home form, but Brighton have improved their away form this season and combined that with some really clever acquisitions in the summer.
“Players who’ve recently come into the side have been brilliant – the game against Crystal Palace a few weeks ago saw some of them in a fantastic light and the crowd were so loud it sounded as if there were 70,000 inside the stadium.
“The fans really got behind the team and that was brilliant – Chris Hughton has some really good options now within the squad and he’s got some difficult decisions to make, they’re the ones you want to have as a manager.”
Having made more than 200 appearances for the Seagulls between 1988 and 1993, Chivers also reserved praise for the job Hughton has done in establishing the club in England’s top flight.
“Chris has a big part to play in bedding that group of players together and that shouldn’t be underestimated.
“He’s been magnificent, he’s someone who I played against when he was at Tottenham Hotspur and I was at Chelsea at youth level.
“Everyone throughout football always speaks so highly of him, he’s honest and he always talks sense – he’s one those people who won’t lose his head and he always seems to be calm whilst getting his message across.
“The players seem to really like him and they’re running through walls for him at the moment and playing out of their skin – that’s all because of the manager.”