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Game of the Week Preview: Brighton & Hove Albion vs Crystal Palace

CHAMPIONSHIP GAME OF THE WEEK

Brighton & Hove Albion vs Crystal Palace – Tuesday 27th September 2011 – 7.45 pm kick-off

Last time the sides met

Brighton & Hove Albion 2-3 Crystal Palace (Sunday 20th November 2005) 

Knight (22), (pen) (53)                        Freedman (28), (60), McAnuff (90)

The Lowdown

Despite being over 40 miles away from each other, the rivalry between Brighton & Hove Albion and Crystal Palace is one of the most intense in British football. The Seagulls and the Eagles will compete in front of a packed Amex Stadium on Tuesday evening. Both sides were left disappointed last weekend as Brighton dropped two points against Leeds United having worked so hard to overcome a 2-0 deficit. Whilst Palace lost their third league game in a row, as they suffered a 1-0 defeat away at Doncaster Rovers. With personal pride at stake, both sides would be willing to scrap their way to a memorable victory.  

Brighton & Hove Albion

Recent Results & Overall Attendances:

Brighton & Hove Albion 3-3 Leeds United (D) – 20,646

Brighton & Hove Albion 1-2 Liverpool (L) – 21,897

Leicester City 1-0 Brighton & Hove Albion (L) – 24,128

Bristol City 0-1 Brighton & Hove Albion (W) – 13,911

Brighton & Hove Albion 2-0 Peterborough United (W) – 19,656

Brighton & Hove Albion 1-0 Sunderland (AET) (W) – 17,090

Can it really get any better for Brighton & Hove Albion? Having reclaimed their place in the 2nd tier of English football, they’ve finally opened their magnificent new stadium whilst they currently sit in fifth place having played a stylish brand of football. Despite being close to liquidation, former chairman Dick Knight withstood financial difficulties during a testing period for the club. The Seagulls can forget about the past and look towards a magnificent future at the Amex Stadium.

“I came down and spoke to the manager and he had enthusiasm and excitement for me to be at the club”. Craig Mackail-Smith explains why he decided to join Brighton in the summer.

Having undertaken coaching roles at Swindon, Leeds and Tottenham, Gus Poyet took his first step into management, joining Brighton & Hove Albion in November 2009. He stabilised the Seagulls as they finished 13th at the end of the 2009-10 season. Poyet and Brighton made monumental progress a year later as they ran away with the League One title. The likes of Craig Mackail-Smith, Will Buckley and Vicente were attracted to the potential of the club, citing Poyet as a major reason for choosing the Seagulls over other competitors.

The last week has been a whirlwind for Albion having played Liverpool and Leeds within two days. The nature of Ross McCormack’s last minute equaliser on Friday evening will have knocked the stuffing out of the players that performed so admirably to overcome a two goal deficit. However, Poyet proved his ability to motivate the players at half-time, and will expect them to give every last ounce of energy to defeat their bitter rivals. 

Expected Starting Line-Up

                                                           C.Ankergren (GK)

 G.Greer (RB)               L.Dunk (CB)                R.Calderon (CB)          M.Painter (LB)

C.Noone (RM)             R.Harley (CM)                 Vicente (CM)             L.Bridcutt (LM)

                                       C.Mackail-Smith (ST)       A.Barnes (ST)

Next 6 League Fixtures: 

Ipswich Town (A) – Saturday 1st October, 3.00pm

Hull City (H) – Saturday 15th October, 5.30pm

Millwall (A) – Tuesday 18th October, 7.45pm

West Ham United (H) – Monday 24th October, 7.45pm

Birmingham City (A) – Saturday 29th October, 3.00pm

Watford (A) – Tuesday 1st November, 7.45pm 

Crystal Palace 

Recent Results & Overall Attendances:

Doncaster Rovers 1-0 Crystal Palace (L) – 9,632

Crystal Palace 2-1 Middlesbrough (W) – 5,448

Crystal Palace 0-1 Middlesbrough (L) – 15,198

Crystal Palace 2-1 Wigan Athletic (W) – 7,649

Leeds United 3-2 Crystal Palace (L) – 23,916

Crystal Palace 1-1 Blackpool (D) – 14,776

One can only guess what state Crystal Palace would have been in had they lost their relegation decider at Hillsborough two seasons ago. Neil Warnock’s departure was combined with a ten-point deduction that had the club on its knees. Their survival that day was absolutely crucial and thankfully for the Eagles, the CPFC 2010 consortium saved them from liquidation. They still remain a Championship club and the fans will be grateful that they have a club to support. With the financial difficulties seemingly behind them, Palace are looking to ensure their survival for next season sooner rather than later.

Fans favourite Dougie Freedman was appointed following the sacking of George Burley in January 2011. With Palace embroiled in yet another relegation battle, Freedman steered the club away from the drop-zone, impressing in his first managerial role. He hasn’t been afraid to give youngsters Sean Scannell, Wilfried Zaha and Jonathan Parr a taste of first-team football. Freedman was disappointed with his side’s loss at Doncaster Rovers, but he will be satisfied with the club’s present position in mid-table.

Plenty of the pre-match attention will be focused on Scottish striker Glenn Murray who returns to his former club on Tuesday night. He scored 22 goals for the Seagulls last season and played a pivotal part in steering the side towards promotion. One would expect him to receive a hostile reception, and Freedman will hope that he can cope with the pressure by haunting his former employers.  His strike partner Sean Scannell has been a bright spark, offering a valuable outlet for the Eagles with his creativity and blistering pace.

Expected Starting Line-Up

                                                                                J.Speroni (GK)

P.Ramage (RB)                    P.McCarthy (CB)            A.Tunchev (CB)           D.Moxey (LB)

D.Ambrose (RM)                 M.Jedinak (CM)             D.Wright (CM)              W.Zaha (LM)

                                                    G.Murray (ST)             S.Scannell (ST)

Next 6 League Fixtures:

West Ham United (H) – Saturday 1st October, 3.00pm

Watford (A) – Saturday 15th October, 3.00pm

Bristol City (H) – Tuesday 18th October, 8.00pm

Ipswich Town (A) – Saturday 22nd October, 3.00pm

Reading (H) – Saturday 29th October, 3.00pm

Portsmouth (H) – Tuesday 1st November, 8.00pm

Tactical Battle – Where the game might be won and lost

Both sides have shown their attacking intent this season with a 4-4-2 system. Plenty of managers often look to pack their midfield to stifle the opposition, sacrificing attacking elements of their play. It is a refreshing approach from both managers ensuring that the neutrals will be treated to a decent game.

The central midfield pairing of Mile Jedinak and David Wright has been sighted by the Palace fans as a significant weakness within their side. Both players seem to lack the creative spark of turning defence into attack that former enforcer Neil Danns possessed. Having almost single-handedly kept the Eagles up two seasons ago, Darren Ambrose has struggled to reach similar heights in the goal-scoring department. He remains a threat from the right-hand side of midfield.

Gus Poyet has been delighted with his side’s defending this season prior to their 3-3 draw with Leeds, as they had only conceded 5 goals in 7 games. However, he will have been alarmed by the basic defensive errors as the back four were left horribly exposed by Ross McCormack, Andy Keogh and Jonathan Howson. The likes of Mackail-Smith, Lua-Lua, Vicente and Noone are very attack-minded, and Palace will hope to exploit the Seagulls at their own game. Sean Scannell will provide the main danger for the Brighton backline, and it will be fascinating to see how 19 year-old centre-back Lewis Dunk copes with the Irish Under-21.

Prediction

Brighton have already some momentous fixtures against the likes of Sunderland, Liverpool and Leeds this season. However their fans will say that this fixture is the one they want to win the most this season. The atmosphere will be electric at the Amex and with the attacking options at Poyet’s disposal, I expect the Seagulls to defeat the Eagles in a thrilling encounter.

Brighton & Hove Albion 2-1 Crystal Palace

Recommended Bets

Paddy Power

Craig Mackail-Smith (4/1 first goal-scorer) – Every time I have seen the Scottish International play, he has always given every last possible ounce of his energy to the cause. His endeavour has ensured a tally of five goals to his name and Paddy McCarthy will have a difficult job in keeping him quiet.

Craig Noone (10/3 anytime goal-scorer) – The former Liverpool trainee has been mesmerising on the wing, as his skills earned the praise of a certain Steven Gerrard. Noone’s confidence is bound to be sky-high meaning Crystal Palace right back Peter Ramage will have to be on top of his game to keep him quiet.

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