Brighton & Hove Albion manager Chris Hughton insists that matches against the division’s bigger teams can act as a good barometer for the progress his side have made during their time in the Premier League.
The Albion boss met the media on Friday morning at the American Express Elite Football Performance Centre ahead of the game with the Blues, and he previewed Sunday’s contest on the south coast, as well as discussing competition within the side, the latest injury news and more.
Adam Cottier from Premier League Productions asked Hughton about the task against Maurizio Sarri’s men and whether he believes his players have become more knowledgeable about the division.
“You always hope that you’ve made progress with your knowledge when you face top sides – that top bracket of teams won’t change, and they’ll always maintain their levels from previous seasons.
“It’s about the side who are up against them and if they’ve made progress - we’ll still be up and down against those sides, but you have to get a lot of things right on the day to get a good result and that’s what we are striving for.
“Every time we play against a top-six team it’s a marker of our progress, and I hope we’ve learnt. We know we’ll have to start well after last season because they were excellent on that day.
“Starting well can be in different ways – sometimes you score or sometimes you get a foothold in the contest, but we know what we have to do this weekend.”
Paul Gilmour asked the Seagulls’ manager for the latest injury news ahead of the weekend.
“We’ll be without Shane Duffy as he serves the second match of his three-game suspension – we’ll see if Jose Izquierdo can train this morning [Friday] because he took a knock a few games ago but has been in better shape recently.
“He’s a late decision but apart from that we have everybody available – Alireza Jahanbakhsh is back fit now and he’s been training with us.”
Gilmour then asked the boss about this weekend’s opponents and their recent victory over Manchester City.
“They’ve started the season very well under a new manager – that in itself brings about a new system and a new way of playing most of the time. They’ve adapted very well, any team that beats Manchester City at the moment has to have quality.
“We have experiences of them from last year – they were very good at the Amex last year, sometimes those things stay with you and we know what to expect this weekend.”
“Whichever way they play they have good quality – they have a lot of flexibility in the way they can play in the front three, as well as a lot of scope.
“In our work against the opposition you always have to try and pick out areas that you feel you can nullify, but the likes of Chelsea have so many threats that it’s difficult to cope with all of them.
“It’s also about our game, we know we’ll have to defend well but we have to be in the game ourselves and show our best qualities too.”
Johnny Cantor from BBC Sussex got the boss to discuss the recent form of Brazilian full-back Bernardo…
“He’s learnt from the way we play and the intensity – you always give yourself a chance if you’re prepared to listen and train hard.
“It was quite unfortunate in the way that he played his first game – the team performance as a whole wasn’t at a level to get a good result.
“Gaetan [Bong] is used to how we play and the levels, but during the time Bernardo wasn’t playing he trained well every day. He’s a young, bright lad and he took his opportunity when it came."
Hughton also spoke to Cantor about the returning availability of David Button ahead of Maty Ryan’s Asia Cup duties with Australia in the new year.
“It’s good to have him back because of Maty's absence next month – we knew his injury would only be for a short period of time and that his injury wouldn’t be a big problem for us.
“It gives us a good level of competition again in that position – both David and Jason Steele have trained really well. I always want to have to make decisions and that’s the challenge I have at the moment.
“The decision on when Maty goes isn’t with us – we’d obviously like to have him with us for as long as possible, but we have to respect the wishes of the Australian national team, our relationship with them is a good one."