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Wednesday, 12 December, 2018

Newcastle may have to share the points on trip to Brighton

Bank on Amex draw

Brighton could have plenty to celebrate
1 of 1

Premier League
Sky Sports Premier League, 4pm Sunday

There was little to separate Brighton and Newcastle in their successful Sky Bet Championship campaigns last season and there may be nothing between them in their first Premier League clash.

The betting suggests a tight match at the Amex and that could be the case on the pitch. The draw looks a likely outcome in a game which does not scream out thrilling entertainment.

Newcastle edged the title race last season, finishing one point ahead of a Brighton side who took their eye off the ball after securing their main aim of promotion before United did.

Newcastle have also made the better start to life in the top flight, although there probably has not been as much between them in terms of performances as a five-point gap suggests.

Newcastle have won three in a row despite seeing much less of the ball in the triumphs over West Ham, Swansea and Stoke.

Rafael Benitez's side and their last two opponents have been involved in close encounters but key set-piece goals from Jamaal Lascelles have propelled the Toon Army up the table.

Set-pieces are a legitimate way of scoring, but the Magpies are not creating bundles of opportunities from open play and this level of point collecting will be difficult to sustain unless more creativity is added to the squad.

However, as a safety-first coach, Benitez's main aim will be to continue to make Newcastle difficult to beat and there is a solidity to their midfield where Mikel Merino looks a steal from Borussia Dortmund.

Seagulls boss Chris Hughton is also pragmatic and since Brighton claimed promotion he has been speaking of making sure they are a more secure team than last season's side who came up happily playing 4-4-2.

It is now one striker for the Seagulls with Pascal Gross in behind and Anthony Knockaert does not have the same free rein to attack teams from the right flank that he did in the lower division .

Brighton failed to score in their first three league matches before beating West Brom 3-1 and losing 2-1 at Bournemouth.

That suggests Hughton has taken the handbrake off but those three goals against West Brom came from a total expected goal rating of under 0.5, while Brighton scored with their only shot on target at Dean Court.

They missed out on several strikers they targeted over the summer and a lack of firepower is expected to be a problem until the window reopens in January.

Brighton lost both matches against Newcastle last season and, while they can avoid the same outcome, Hughton may have to settle for a point against his former club.

1pt 11-5 Betfair, Paddy Power

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Team news
Bruno, Glenn Murray, Izzy Brown and Gaetan Bong return. Sam Baldock, Steve Sidwell and Beram Kayal remain sidelined.

Florian Lejeune is doubtful and Aleksandar Mitrovic is suspended. Massadio Haidara and Paul Dummett remain out.

Key stat
Brighton have managed just 14 shots on target in this season's Premier League.

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As a safety-first coach, Benitez's main aim will be to continue to make Newcastle difficult to beat
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