Fulham vs Brighton predictions: Seagulls can make further capital gains
Few would have predicted that Fulham and Brighton would have just one defeat between them after four rounds of Premier League matches but there has been nothing lucky about the impressive starts made by either the Cottagers or the Seagulls.
Hosts Fulham had their unbeaten start to the season ended on Saturday but a last-gasp defeat away at top-of-the-table Arsenal is no disgrace for the West London side.
That narrow 2-1 loss at the Emirates Stadium was the first time that the newly promoted Cottagers had looked second best this season, with Fulham good value for the draw when they went toe-to-toe with Liverpool on the opening day.
Visitors Brighton sit fourth in the table and are there entirely on merit.
The Seagulls were deserving of their first-ever Old Trafford success, dominated the 0-0 draw against Newcastle, outclassed West Ham in East London and beat a Leeds side on a high after thrashing Chelsea.
Neither team will go into this game looking for anything less than three points.
Marco Silva was relieved to get Neeskens Kebano back for the trip to Arsenal but the Fulham manager may not want to risk starting the attacker twice in four days as he returns from a minor groin injury.
With fellow forwards Harry Wilson and Manor Solomon both out until October with knee injuries, youngster Jay Stansfield may again be called upon in attack.
Graham Potter has a couple of first-team concerns among his Brighton squad, with Adam Lallana joining Jakub Moder on the sidelines.
Lallana is expected to be out until October with a calf injury while Moder will be unavailable until the new year with a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament.
Youngster Jeremy Sarmiento is again likely to miss out after picking up a knee injury a fortnight ago.
These two have drawn three of just four top-flight encounters, with both meetings in 2020-21 ending goalless and Fulham winning their home fixture in 2018-19.
However, Brighton are consistently improving, scoring more goals with each passing Premier League campaign and losing fewer games in every season bar one.
Their goal tally has steadily improved since netting 34 in their 2017-18 Premier League debut, with the Seagulls going on to score 35, 39, 40 and 42 goals in the four completed seasons since then — and they are on track to again add to that total with an average goals-per-game ratio of 1.25 this term.
The Seagulls have won eight of their last 13 league games, with the only defeat in that run coming away at Manchester City.
And their recent away record has been particularly impressive, with Brighton failing to score only at the Etihad Stadium in their last eight road trips and winning five of the last seven away games.
They visit a leaky Fulham side who have conceded exactly two goals in four of five matches in all competitions this season.
The Cottagers have also conceded at least twice in over half of their last 12 competitive matches, winning only three of those games.
Newly promoted Fulham have exceeded expectations and there is a lot to like about the all-action outfit.
Their two home games have provided a thrilling 2-2 draw with Liverpool and a characterful performance against Brentford in which they claimed a late 3-2 victory after the Bees had pegged them back.
And while there were justifiable concerns over how Aleksandar Mitrovic would perform in the top tier after his recent Premier League struggles, the Serb has impressed with four goals in four games and poses a serious threat when in form and full of confidence.
However, while no slight on a largely Championship-quality squad, a hard-working but technically limited Fulham side are arguably already maximising their talents and could struggle to find another gear against a tactically excellent Brighton side.
New Seagulls signing Pervis Estupinan has slotted in seamlessly to fill the gap left by Marc Cucurella, Leandro Trossard has reached new heights, Danny Welbeck looks a man reborn and Pascal Gross has been the star of the show with three goals and an assist.
But overall, it is the system at Brighton that impresses most, with every player knowing what to do and where to be at all times.
Potter's team is only an elite striker short of being a serious European contender and should have too much for the Cottagers.