• Championship Preview: Brentford v Brighton and Hove Albion

    With fans having had to wait over the summer for the return of domestic football, another break so soon into the campaign now has Albion supporters chomping at the bits to see Sami Hyypia’s side back in action once again.

    Today they will get to do so once again, as Brighton are back in Championship action as they face their first unknown quantity so far this season in Brentford.

    The opening five games have seen Albion come up against sides already familiar to them from last year in the division, however the Bees are one of six new sides in the league, having won promotion from League One as runners-up.

    With both the sides having spent a large part of their history playing in the lower two divisions of English League football, they have faced off 66 times since 1920, with Albion holding the slender of advantage of 30 wins to the London side’s 25, with 12 games drawn.

    However in recent years Albion have found picking up wins at Griffin Park hard to come by, with the last encounter at Brentford’s ground in March 2011 being our first since 1995.

    On paper this game should also be a tight contest, with both sides heading into the international break two weeks ago on the back of a good run of form. Brighton are unbeaten in four games, with Mark Warburton’s side having not lost their past three matches.

    Could Kaz find the net against the Bees again today?

    The last time the sides clashed away from Sussex was during a dominant month of March in the run to the League One title under Gus Poyet three years ago. The Bees were one of eight sides dispatched of by Poyet’s side that month, with Karleigh Osbourne’s own goal the deciding factor between the teams on the Tuesday night. Casper Ankergren, Inigo Calderon and Gordon Greer are the only current squad players who featured that night, with Lewis Dunk an unused substitute. Kazenga Lua Lua - then on-loan from Newcastle - also appeared for Albion in the home fixture earlier in the season, scoring the deciding goal.

    However this time around Dunk is more than likely going to have a place in the starting XI at 3pm today. Having re-discovered the form he showed initially in Poyet’s first season in charge at this level, the 22-year old has started this season in perfect fashion, ousting veteran centre-back Aaron Hughes from the back four, and notching his first two league goals two weeks ago to rescue a point against Charlton.

    All in all there are unlikely to be very many changes made from the side that lined up at the Amex 14 days ago.

    Only three players are going to be absent for today. Dale Stephens and Solly March are both still a fair way off returning to action, whilst Kemy Agustien is I also suffering from an ankle injury.

    Having had the time to integrate himself into the squad and style of play further over the international break, Sam Baldock may be given his full debut against the Bees.

    The former Bristol City striker is seen by many as the 20 goals per season replacement for Leonardo Ulloa, and therefore will at some point be given the nod ahead of Craig Mackail-Smith to lead the front line.

    A number of players have passed between both clubs over the years. Nicky Forster spent three years at Griffin Park, and in two spells there made over 100 appearances. His second stint came after his exit from Brighton, having lost his place in the side after a contract dispute with Poyet.

    However one player who is seemingly delivered on his potential at the Amex that he wasn’t able to show with the Bees is Joao Teixeira.

    The Liverpool loanee (above) was sent out on a short-term loan to Hounslow-based side at the start of September last year. However with the side failing to perform, their manager at the time - Uwe Rosler - decided to place faith in his own players, and could not guarantee the game time that the Merseysiders wanted the then-20-year old Texeira to get. He only made two appearances for them, and was sent back to Anfield after less than a month.

    Seemingly it was more of a case of wrong player, wrong time, however his experience at present is far from that. To go from not being guaranteed a start in League One to being one of the first names on the team sheet in the Championship a year later highlights the progress he has made.

    Ahead of the game, Warburton acknowledged that like his own side, Albion’s game will be both easy on the eye to watch, and pose them a dangerous.

    “Brighton are a very good footballing team. They play the game in the right way, look to get on the ball, pass it and dominate it. We do that as well.

    “I think it will be a good game for the neutral. We know their strengths - they look to get in to the pockets, work the channels. We have to be focused and I am looking forward to it.”

    Games against the newer sides in the division are more often that not some of the most difficult. They will be hungry to either regain their place in the division above, or carry over the winning feeling from the previous year into this.

    The Bees have done enough business in the transfer window to ensure they should thrive as opposed to just surviving at this level. They will pose a tough test in a game that should be great to watch.

    With the benefit of using the international break to get the new players up to speed, Hyypia will be eager to see his side continue their unbeaten run, and with a packed out away end in their corner, the tools are there for them to do the job.
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