• Championship Preview: Brighton and Hove Albion v Rotherham United

    Whilst Albion did manage to pick up a point away at Huddersfield thanks to top scorer Lewis Dunk’s first half equaliser, another unsightly milestone was passed in terms of the side’s current form.

    Having not picked up three points in North Yorkshire on Tuesday night, The Seagull’s run without winning a game in the Championship, ticked over the two month period a few days later.

    Fulham’s win over Charlton last night now means that Sami Hyypia’s side go into today’s clash with Rotherham just a point and one place above the relegation zone. With many fans starting to question whether he can change things around at the Amex, the Finn will need his players to step up and be counted in what should be seen as a must win clash.

    Against a very direct and strong Millers’ side that won’t be an easy task. They gained promotion through the League One play-offs at the expense of Leyton Orient last season, and managed by the ever-controversial Steve Evans they have started reasonably well in the Championship, sitting in mid-table on 16 points – four ahead of Albion.

    The difference between the two sides is marginal at this stage, with both sides having lost the same amount of games so far in the league. However whereas Brighton have drawn in games they possibly should have won, Rotherham have picked up a couple more wins.

    As has been pointed out numerous times by Hyypia, chances are being squandered too easily and therefore allowing the opposition to strike first and gain the upper hand in the match in doing so.

    With the need for a win at it’s highest, fans could point to the historical and most recent form in this fixture for encouragement that they won’t go a tenth game without gaining a win in the division.

    Albion have narrowly won more of the 45 games between the two sides, with 16 victories to 15, and 14 being drawn.

    The last game between the teams was a 0-0 draw at the Withdean in February 2007, with current Seagulls striker Chris O’Grady starting for the visitors as part of their front two pairing.

    The last home victory for Albion saw Dan Harding score his only goal whilst at the club in December 2004 to seal all the points, whilst the most recent Brighton win in the tie saw current Rotherham striker Alex Revell net the winner late in the first half at Millmoor on the opening day of the 2006/07 season.

    Once again Hyypia’s starting line-up across the board is going to be affected by injuries in a number of areas.

    Bruno and Joe Bennett could both make their returns to the side in the full back positions after both missed the midweek trip to the John Smiths Stadium, with the former having also been absent from last weekends defeat at the hands of Middlesbrough. Whilst Aston Villa loanee Bennett has been able to train yesterday, Albion’s Catalan right-back‘s groin problem was still being monitored as of yesterday, therefore Inigo Calderon is likely to start once again.

    The midfield three of Danny Holla, Jake Forster-Caskey and Gary Gardner are likely to remain unchanged, although the option of starting with Rohan Ince is there for Hyypia.

    Kazenga Lua Lua’s suspension means that Adrian Colunga and Paddy McCourt are the most likely men to start in attacking midfield. Due to the nature of his head injury Joao Teixeira was given time to recover fully this week, however he could now be in contention if he is deemed fit by the club’s medical staff. If he is put into the starting XI it would probably be at the expense of McCourt

    At Huddersfield both Sam Baldock and Chris O’Grady started, however with the former cup-tied for the upcoming midweek trip to Tottenham Hotspur in the Capital One Cup, the chance of Hyypia risking his only other fit striker from picking up an injury before the trip to White Hart Lane is unlikely.

    Ahead of the game both Jake Forster-Caskey and Hyypia spoke to the press, with the side’s current run a hot topic of conversation.

    Teixeira could return to the side in place of the suspended Lua Lua

    Despite having not won a league in over 8 weeks, the 20-year old said that it hadn’t affected the attitude, confidence or morale amongst the squad, which is something that his manager agreed with.

    “When I speak to the squad or hear things that they talk about together I haven’t heard anything that suggests they’re down about this situation. It’s not a nice situation to be in, but there’s no reason to be down or to be nervous.”

    However with the number of Championship games without a win almost reaching double figures, England Under-21 international Forster-Caskey says that it’s up to the players to start making chances that have been missed in previous games count.

    “We’ve had enough time to try and get it right, and now it’s down to us on the pitch to make it right. I think we’ve still got a great team spirit and belief, and we’ve just got to transfer that over to the 90 minutes.”

    On the test that the away side will pose, Albion’s boss isn’t expecting too many surprises from Rotherham, but he hasn’t ruled it out.

    “We can’t control what they are doing. They are direct, play with a high tempo and try to press you and make it difficult for you to play. I’m expecting this from them, but it doesn’t matter whether they’ve been in this league for 10 years just got promoted because every game is a different game.

    “Sometimes the managers do something to try and surprise you, and we’ll see what they’ll do on Saturday.”

    As pressure continues to mount on him and he starts to look towards the loan market for new blood in the squad, Hyypia will no doubt be hoping his players – in particular the strikers – will go out there and prove that they are up to the task of dragging Albion out of their current rot.

    Before the start of the season this would have been viewed as a “should win game” against fairly standard opposition. However as much as that extra pressure can get to the players, it’s hard to see the next bunch of league games as anything but “must win”.

    It feels like Groundhog Day when it’s said that the performances have been there on the most part but the finishing has been missing. That’s what needs to click to make the difference between drawing and winning games at a crucial time of the season, and it needs to happen sooner rather than later.
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