• Championship Preview: Brighton and Hove Albion v Blackpool

    Sami Hyypia’s men have the chance to put a weeks worth of frustrations behind them as they return to the Amex in the Championship this weekend.

    Having lost to both Brentford and Ipswich since the end of the international break, the Seagulls are in need of a pick-me-up ahead of another tough run of games over the next 10 days.

    That opportunity to pick up all three points for the third time this season comes in the form of today’s visitors Blackpool, who are still looking for their first win under Jose Riga.

    It’s been a summer of turmoil at Bloomfield Road that everyone is now all too familiar with now. The Tangerines new manager was left for most of pre-season with only 8 first-team players on their books, resulting in them having to field teams mainly of trialists in friendly matches.

    The Belgian’s position in charge has continued to be undermined since the start of the season, with Burton boss Gary Rowett reported to have been offered the former Charlton manager’s role at the club. He has seemingly had seemingly “productive” meetings with chairman Karl Oyston since then, however whether that lasts is yet to be seen.

    Hyypia's side have gone four weeks without a win in The Championship

    Historically when comparing the sides head-to-head record, it’s the Albion who come out on top by the narrowest of margins, with 10 wins to the former Premier League sides 9, with another 9 ending in a draw.

    The previous encounter between the two sides came at the end of last season at the Amex, with former Brighton midfielder Stephen Dobbie firing home a 25-yard screamer to clinch a point for the away side, with Dale Stephens having put the home team in front with a clinical curled shot from just outside the box.

    The most memorable match between the pair in recent times saw Brighton thump the Lancashire club 6-1 at home in April 2013 on their way to qualifying for the play-offs that year. It’s a sign of how the squad has changed since that day that none of the seven goal scorers – Will Buckley, Matt Upson, Andrea Orlandi, David Lopez, Ashley Barnes and not forgetting Dean Hammond’s bullet own goal header – are no longer with the club 17 months later.

    Whilst with some managers it’s possible to predict who the starting XI will feature, in Hyypia’s case there has been very little to go on in terms of who are guaranteed starters.

    Even in pre-match press this week he said that he likes to have fresh legs on the pitch as often as possible, and that he didn’t and doesn’t want to know what his strongest front line is.

    Going from previous games, David Stockdale, Gordon Greer, Joe Bennett, Danny Holla and Sam Baldock are the players who are unlikely to get dropped.

    Therefore at the back, it’s plausible that Lewis Dunk and Bruno could make way for Aaron Hughes and Inigo Calderon.

    In the midfield three a return for Andrew Crofts is likely, with Gary Gardner no doubt also wanting to play a part from the start this afternoon.

    Having came on the bench for Tuesday’s loss at Portman Road, Liverpool loanee Joao Teixeira is likely to feature at the Amex once again, after his trickery and skill sealed Albion’s first and at this point solitary home league win of the season against Bolton last month. A place for Adrian Colunga instead of Craig Mackail-Smith could also happen.

    A handful of players have represented both sides over the years. As already touched upon, Scotland international Dobbie has pulled on both strips, however strangely has made more appearances during his three seasons on loan at Bloomfield Road than whilst a permanent member of Albion’s squad.

    Former Seagull Orlandi faces fitness fight to play today

    Brighton legend Kit Napier made the jump from junior to professional footballer at Blackpool in 1960 aged 17, however he only made two appearances in three years there. It wasn’t until he arrived at the Goldstone Ground that the Scotsman made his name, scoring 84 goals in over 250 appearances between 1966-72, including helping the club get promoted to Division 2 (now known as the Championship) in his final season in Sussex.

    The most recent name to join the list of players who have played for both of today’s sides and who could feature in this afternoon’s game is Andrea Orlandi.

    The Spaniard arrived in Sussex from Swansea with a point to prove, having only appeared three times for the Welsh side in the Premier League the previous season.

    Whilst injuries dogged a fair share of his time at both the Liberty Stadium and most of his second season at Albion, the former Barcelona youth player became a fan favourite in his first season at the club, with his creative ability helping the Seagulls unlock many a side in the 2012-13 season, with his beautiful turn and half volley goal against Newcastle in the FA Cup that year one of the highlights of his time at the club.

    Of all the players released by the club this summer, the 30-year olds caused the most uproar amongst the fanbase, with many calling for the decision to not offer him a new contract to be reconsidered.

    It’s clear that the club meant a lot to Orlandi himself. He has recently started writing a blog for Barcelona based sports website am14, and had this to say about today’s clash, and his time at the club.

    “That match will be really special for me. I spent two of my best years of my life there. I met amazing people and they were two splendid seasons - I felt at home in the Amex. The club decided not to extend my contract and I had to leave, although it was hard to accept and understand.”

    However Orlandi’s chances of playing are slim at this point. He was left out of his sides 1-0 defeat to Watford on Tuesday evening, and needed injections to play last weekend when Riga’s men picked up there first point of the season at Wolves.

    Whilst the cards all looked stacked in Albion’s favour in this game, in the Championship it’s hard to back a favourite in many games. Whilst they are still in the gelling process, things are slowly coming together for Blackpool, and they won’t simply be turning up to make up the numbers.

    With a trip to Burton in the League Cup and leaders Nottingham Forest followed by a visit from Cardiff in the next 10 days, a return to winning ways would do Hyypia’s men the world of good. It would help reestablish some momentum and confidence that has perhaps been lacking since the international break.
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