Brighton v Chelsea preview: Ross Barkley in Blues squad for first time
Last Updated: 20/01/18 11:23am
Ross Barkley will be in the Chelsea squad for Saturday's lunchtime trip to Brighton, live on Sky Sports Premier League.
The new signing from Everton played in a behind-closed-doors friendly on Thursday but is likely to be named among the Blues substitutes.
"Ross is in a good physical condition," Blues boss Antonio Conte told reporters ahead of the game. "I don't know if during the game I will decide to give him the chance to play or if I want to wait but for now he's in the squad. He has to continue to improve, to work with us, with our ideas."
Chelsea are unbeaten in 11 games but have drawn all five games since the turn of the year and needed penalties to see off Championship side Norwich in an FA Cup third-round replay in midweek.
Brighton boss Chris Hughton has seen his own side record just one win in 12 league games but is out to make home advantage count against a side in the top four but currently struggling for goals.
"I expect a very difficult game, I don't think anybody would say any different," Hughton said. "Irrespective of their situation at the moment it won't be anything other than a difficult game.
"But these are the challenges you look forward to. We know we are more likely to get points at home than away, we have had some difficulties away from home, this is the next opportunity we have.
Steve Sidwell remains Brighton's only injury absentee for the visit of his former club. The midfielder underwent a back operation in September and still faces another few months on the sidelines.
Hughton otherwise has a fully-fit squad as the Seagulls go in search of a first Premier League win in 2018.
While Barkley will be involved for the first time, Conte has a string of injury and suspension issues to contend with.
Pedro and Alvaro Morata are banned after their dismissals against Norwich, while defender Gary Cahill and midfielder Cesc Fabregas (both hamstring) remain out.
Conte has also admitted he has some further - undisclosed - injury worries.
This is only the 10th ever meeting between Brighton and Chelsea - the Blues have won each of the last seven contests in all competitions.
Chelsea have won all five of their English league matches against Brighton - should they win this match, only one team will have a better 100 per cent record against an opponent since the Football League began in 1888 (Wimbledon against Bournemouth, eight wins out of eight).
Brighton have picked up just one win from their last 12 Premier League games (D5 L6), failing to score in eight of these fixtures.
However, at home Brighton have lost just one of their last 10 in the Premier League (W3 D6), though both of their defeats at the Amex Stadium this season have been against 'big six' opposition (Man City and Liverpool).
Chelsea have won just one of their last five away league games (D3 L1), drawing each of the last two. They've not gone three away games without a win in the Premier League under Antonio Conte.
Chris Hughton is winless in seven matches against Chelsea in all competitions (D2 L5), losing each of the last five; his only victory against them came in the League Cup in September 2010, a 4-3 win at Stamford Bridge for Newcastle United.
I was at Chelsea on Wednesday night, and I know it's not their first team, but they look devoid of confidence. I watched Chelsea against Leicester last weekend, and the Foxes were by far the better team in that game, and were unfortunate not to win.
Brighton are decent at home. There's no Alvaro Morata, and I watched Michy Batshuayi on Wednesday and thought: "Go on, work hard, and you've got every chance to put pressure on the manager!" He wasn't even interested. I think this is a hard game, but I'm just tipping Chelsea.
PAUL PREDICTS: 0-1 (4/1 with Sky Bet)