Brighton can keep European adventure alive by cleaning up in Amsterdam
Brighton can keep their Europa League adventure alive
Brighton must find a way to cope with the demands of European football before their season falls apart.
The Seagulls fly to Amsterdam in desperate need of a victory over Ajax as their 2-0 win in the reverse fixture at the Amex at the end of last month is their only victory in their last eight matches.
Like many other teams enjoying their first European adventure, they have found the demands have placed such a strain on their squad that results have suffered.
Following last season’s success in the Premier League it was business as usual with four wins from five matches to start the campaign, but since losing at home to AEK Athens they have triumphed just twice in all competitions.
The 2-2 draws in Marseille and at home to Liverpool are not to be sniffed at, but it’s imperative they return to winning way, and victories in Holland and against Sheffield United when they visit the south coast on Sunday can send Brighton into the international break in a positive frame of mind.
On the face of it, once-mighty Ajax are just the opponents to face if a team is looking for a launchpad for success. They have won just four of their 15 matches this term but they have picked up recently under caretaker-boss Hedwiges Maduro and have taken maximum points from their last two Eredivisie matches to climb away from the foot of the table.
They are now a slightly more respectable 11th, although that still falls way below their sky high standards, following a 2-0 win against FC Volendam and a 4-1 success, which was also at home, against Heerenveen.
That uptick in form means Roberto De Zerbi’s Brighton players cannot afford to be complacent as anything but a triumph will mean their chances of reaching the knockout stages are in real strife.
Brighton are a really good side when they click and should have beaten Ajax by more when they visited Sussex so they should be backed at 10/13 with BetUK to gain the victory required. Kaoru Mitoma is 21/10 with Paddy Power and Betfair to get on the scoresheet.
West Ham also need a victory to end a dismal run which has seen them lose four of their last five matches. They were beaten 2-1 at Olympiakos last time out in Europe and may have to settle for a draw with the Greeks at the London Stadium at 13/4 with Bet UK. Jarrod Bowen regularly gets among the goals and is 37/20 with the same firm and Unibet to do so again.
• Leon Bailey is 5/2 with Paddy Power and Betfair to score for Aston Villa when they entertain AZ Alkmaar in the Europa Conference League and the midlands club are 23/20 to lead HT/FT.
• Gordon Elliott’s Gerri Colombe is each-way material at 14/1 with SpreadEx for Boxing Day’s King George VI Chase at Kempton but that price will shrivel after victory in Saturday’s Ladbrokes Champion Chase at Down Royal at 11/10 with the sponsors.