LONDON (Reuters) – Nine games into the job, Graham Potter remains unbeaten as Chelsea manager. On Saturday, he aims to extend that streak to double figures when he returns to his former club Brighton and Hove Albion in the Premier League.
Potter, who Brighton lured from Swansea City in 2019, took over at Stamford Bridge after Thomas Tuchel’s sacking. While Chelsea have not been spectacular since his arrival, the 47-year-old has taken little time to get his message across.
Still, successive draws in their last two Premier League fixtures – away to Brentford and at home to Manchester United, games in which they struggled to create chances, leave them fifth in the table.
Victory in Salzburg on Tuesday meant Chelsea reached the last 16 of the Champions League, but Potter will be anxious to get back to winning ways in the league with the race for top-four places hotting up.
The manage had his critics at Brighton, but the majority of the club’s fans viewed his time positively. The club’s form since suggests he is being sorely missed.
Brighton are winless in five Premier League games under Italian Roberto de Zerbi, and they have scored once in their last four games since a thrilling 3-3 draw at Liverpool.
The omens are not good for De Zerbi breaking that sequence as Brighton have never beaten Chelsea in the Premier League, losing six and drawing four, and have actually only ever beaten them once in their history, an FA Cup tie in 1933.
De Zerbi’s side, who are in ninth place, impressed in a 3-1 loss to Manchester City last weekend though, and defender Joel Veltman says Brighton fans should not be too despondent.
“There are still things to work on but we are making progress all the time and we will get there,” he said.
“Last Saturday, against one of the best sides in Europe we showed a lot of courage to play through their lines and we created chances. We did well out of possession and were compact.”
Chelsea’s draw at home to United allowed Newcastle United to move into the top four on goal difference and Eddie Howe’s side are now being taken seriously as contenders for the Champions League spots.
Newcastle have lost once all season and last week’s 2-1 victory at Tottenham Hotspur was a big statement.
They host Aston Villa on Saturday when Villa’s new manager Unai Emery will likely be in the stands while he awaits clearance to start work.
Former Villarreal manager Emery was Newcastle’s initial target when they sacked Steve Bruce a year ago but the appointment of Howe has proved to be a masterstroke.
Villa will have Aaron Danks in charge for the last time after he masterminded a 4-0 win over Brentford a few days after Steven Gerrard was sacked.
A mark of leaders Arsenal’s progress this season is that last weekend’s 1-1 draw at Southampton was regarded as a slip-up when in fact it was the kind of fixture which in recent seasons might have ended in defeat.
Mikel Arteta’s side, who are two points clear of Manchester City, will aim to get over that blip at home to a Nottingham Forest side who stunned Liverpool last week.
City kick off the action away to improving Leicester City while third-placed Tottenham Hotspur will seek to bounce back from consecutive league defeats when they take on Bournemouth. Liverpool host Leeds United in Saturday’s late game.
Sixth-placed Manchester United host West Ham on Sunday.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Hugh Lawson)