• Championship Preview: Leeds United v Brighton And Hove Albion

    Two games into the new Championship season, and Albion are still searching for their first points and goal in the league.

    This isn’t something fans will be that unfamiliar with, as we were in a similar position points wise this time last year when Oscar Garcia was in the dugout, however under the Spaniard we opened the scoring on the opening day of the season at Leeds United.

    And for Sami Hyypia’s men it’s Elland Road that provides the next opportunity for them to get off the mark at the third time of asking, with the Seagulls also being the only side in the division yet to find the back of the net.

    The former Champions League semi-finalists notched their first league win of the season over the weekend against Middlesbrough, and will be looking to make it three home wins on the bounce in both league and cup.

    Sami still looking for first league win

    Many eyebrows have been raised at goings on at the West Yorkshire over the summer, in no small part because of their controversial owner, Massimo Cellino.

    From demands for Whites’ players to live in the city, to his superstitions about the number 17, he has made many a headline during pre-season. However the appointment of David Hockaday – who’s only previous managerial experience saw him sacked by non-league Forest Green Rovers – as Head Coach certainly took the biscuit on that front.

    Looking at the head-to-head stats ahead of the game, it comes as no surprise that the Three-time First Division champions have the better overall record in previous ties between the two sides, with 17 victories to Brighton’s 11, with another 11 games having been drawn.

    Most of those Albion wins have come at home, however of the three away victories, two of those were picked up in the past three years.

    Former Seagulls boss Gus Poyet successfully steered the side to three points in both of those fixtures, with the most memorable of those coming in April 2013, when Leo Ulloa’s late goal secured 4th place & a play-off berth.

    Wholesale changes from Saturdays defeat at St Andrews are unlikely, but some rotation could be made to the starting line-up.

    On-loan Midfielder Joao Teixeira made a good impression when he came on in the second half, and having had more time to train with the squad ahead of tonight’s game he could make his first start for Albion, with Craig Mackail-Smith the most likely man to make way for the Liverpool youngster.

    Another option in the midfield trio has opened up in the form of the club’s latest signing, Danny Holla. The Dutchman joined the club on a free transfer yesterday after leaving Eredivisie side ADO Den Haag at the end of last season.

    The 26-year-old linked up with his new teammates yesterday at the St George’s Park complex in Burton, where Albion have been based since Saturday’s defeat.

    Whilst he hasn’t had a full pre-season, in his first interview with the club website Holla put himself forward for selection this evening,

    “I had a couple of weeks training at my old club and I’m feeling fit. I’m didn’t play any games but I’ve trained a lot.

    “I hope I get to play tomorrow. That decision is up to the manager, but I’m ready.”

    However as with Teixeira, the likelihood is that if fans get a first glimpse of Holla at Elland Road, it will be as a substitute. You’d expect Kemy Agustien to make way for his fellow countryman on the bench.

    Whilst there are no former Albion players in the Leeds squad – although former loanee Junior Lewis is Assistant to Hockaday – there’s one player who has a lot of history with Albion in recent years.

    New signing Holla has declared himself fit to play

    New signing Billy Sharp has taken over the reigns from recently departed Ross McCormack as United’s main goalscoring threat, and it was the 28-year-old who grabbed the late winner over Boro at the weekend.

    The Sheffield-born frontman first rose to prominence in the minds of Albion fans whilst at Scunthorpe during the 2006/07 season.

    Sharp cut a frustrated figure during the 1-1 draw at the Withdean Stadium, and chose to throw his toys out of the pram by moaning and whinging to every match official in sight, even managing to get booked for mockingly clapping a refereeing decision he disagreed with, followed by the home crowd winding him up even more with some less-than-complimentary chants directed towards him.

    Whilst Will Buckley holds the honour of the first Albion player to score a competitive goal at the Amex, it was Sharp – playing for Doncaster - who was the first player to get on the score sheet in the opening game of the 2011-12 season, when his 39th minute shot deflected in off the post and trickled over the line. He was later stretchered after a clash with Lewis Dunk.

    His most recent appearance against Albion in February this year was also in Rover’s colours, on this occasion on-loan from Southampton. However once again his afternoon at the Amex was ended abruptly as he was sent off on 85 minutes for a clash with Seagulls Skipper Gordon Greer.

    Having struggled to create many clear-cut chances in their opening two league fixtures, Albion will be under pressure not only to get a result at Elland Road, but also put in a good performance.

    Whilst it’s clear that Hyypia still needs and wants to bring in a couple more new faces, fans will still be expecting to see more progress in terms of the style of play the Finn is trying to implement.

    With a good record in recent years at Elland Road and with a new signing in tow, there’s every chance that away fans travelling to the game and watching the beam back at the Amex will see Albion’s Championship season truly get underway this evening. However as we’ve learned in previous years, away games at Leeds are anything but predictable.
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