Cardiff City and Brighton and Hove Albion shared the same principal objective before a ball had been kicked at the start of the 2018/19 Premier League season: survival. That will not have changed after 11 matches, although one of the two teams looks in a far better position to achieve that goal than the other.
Brighton may have lost 3-1 to Everton in their last encounter, but they will be delighted with their return of 14 points from a possible 33 thus far. An eight-point cushion above the drop zone looks extremely healthy even at this early stage of the campaign, with predictions that second-season syndrome could bite following last term’s 15th-place finish having hitherto looked wide of the mark.
There is, however, a long way to go and Chris Hughton is not the type of manager who will get carried away with the manner in which his side have begun the campaign.
Furthermore, there remains a significant discrepancy between Brighton’s performances and results at home and on the road. Indeed, the difference between Albion in front of their own fans and on their travels is often so vast that Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde would arouse little suspicion in comparison, and it is exactly that which will give Cardiff (available at 13/8 to win with BetVictor) hope ahead of Saturday’s early kick-off in south Wales.
Brighton accumulated 40 points in their first ever season in the Premier League last time out, but only 11 of those were collected at stadiums other than the Amex – the worst such record in the division. A 1-0 win at Swansea City in early November was the last time Hughton’s charges emerged victorious in front of opposition fans in 2017/18, and no side recorded fewer than their two victories away from home.
Brighton’s survival was therefore built on their results at home; only Manchester City, Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea and Everton could better the Seagulls’ return of 29 points on their own patch.
The theme has continued this term. Brighton have lost just one of their games at the Amex, a narrow 2-1 reverse against Tottenham, and have taken the scalps of Manchester United, West Ham United and Wolverhampton Wanderers on the south coast, as well as drawing 2-2 with Fulham.
Conversely they have picked up only one victory in their six away assignments, a 1-0 success against Newcastle United last month, and have failed to score in exactly half of those fixtures, which makes a price of 9/5 at 888sport on a Cardiff clean sheet look somewhat appealing.
Neil Warnock’s men have struggled for points at any stadium so far this season, but the veteran Yorkshireman will know that his team’s home form will be vital if they are to upset the odds and extend their stay in the top tier beyond a single year. Last weekend’s 1-0 loss to Leicester City will therefore have been a disappointment, particularly as the Bluebirds were second best throughout the game.
Cardiff gave a good account of themselves in the 3-2 defeat by Arsenal in September, but they will have wanted to take more than four points from subsequent home matches against Newcastle, Burnley, Fulham and Leicester.
It is important to emphasise the fact that the Welsh outfit are punching above their weight by simply being in the Premier League in the first place. Warnock has, on paper, the weakest squad in the division at his disposal, and it would be harsh in the extreme to blame the former Sheffield United, Crystal Palace and Queens Park Rangers manager for his side’s struggles so far.
It is certainly true that the 69-year-old has failed to make an impression on the top flight throughout his career, but any judgment of his work this season must be balanced by the recognition that he did a magnificent job in taking an average Championship side to a second-place finish in 2017/18.
Nevertheless, it is fair to say that Cardiff are not the type of the team the purists will choose to watch too often this season, and their clash with Brighton on Saturday is likely to be physical, tight and, in all probability, low-scoring.
Under 2.5 goals, offered at 4/7 by Coral, would have paid out in four of Brighton’s last five outings, while under 1.5 is a riskier but potentially more lucrative option at 19/10 with Unibet. In terms of the overall outcome, home advantage could be pivotal – so back Cardiff to come out on top in an encounter lacking in goals.
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