Hughton backs hard-working Knockaert to produce

Anthony Knockaert. Picture by Phil Westlake (PW Sporting Photography)
Anthony Knockaert. Picture by Phil Westlake (PW Sporting Photography)
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Brighton boss Chris Hughton has backed Anthony Knockaert to show his quality in the Premier League but admits he's finding things harder in the top flight.

Knockaert starred as Albion were promoted last season and was named the Championship player of the season, after scoring 15 goals and providing eight assists.

The winger has netted twice this season and Hughton has backed the 26-year-old to still produce his moments of magic but admitted they will be less often because of the opposition's quality in the Premier League.

Asked about Knockaert's return this year, compared to last season, Hughton said: "It's easy to assess it. If you have a player who's not working as hard as last year then you can put it down to that.

"That's one we've ruled out. He's working as hard and his levels we get from our fitness fellas is the same as last season.

"What he's up against is better players, particularly when you're a side like ourselves that play with two wingers. If you're a wide player, probably what he would have got away with last season is more difficult to get away with.

"Any striker that we would have this season would not have scored as many goals as they would have last season.

"It comes with the levels. He's given us a contribution for the team, he's trying to get crosses in as often as he can but some of them moments that he could produce last season, he can still produce but it's harder."

On the opposite side of the pitch today will be Chelsea winger Eden Hazard, who Hughton admits is up there with the best attacking players in the top flight.

Hughton said: "He is right up there. If I look at players, Liverpool have Mane and Salah, Manchester City have got loads but what I would say with Hazard is if he gets the ball in the opposition half, there's a little bit of safety with that.

"But every time he receives the ball in the final third, there is a huge threat there could be an end product. I can't say he's the best because there are so many. I couldn't tell you who is the best but he's right up there.

"For the last few seasons, he has gone to another level."