• Championship Preview: Brighton and Hove Albion v Wigan Athletic

    Whilst the strikers started to get thing right at one end of the pitch at Bournemouth on Saturday evening, defensive errors mean Albion were frustrated once again in their attempts to end their winless league run.

    The 3-2 defeat at the Goldsands Stadium means that the Seagulls have failed to pick up three points in their last 11 games, an unwanted run of bad form that has been a thorn in their side for over 10 weeks now.

    With the next international break approaching, if Albion go into that period still having not picked up a win from the next two games, Tony Bloom could look at it as a period to bring in a new manager – something which many fans are calling for - and give him time to work with the squad before they travel to Norwich on November 22nd.

    However with performances against the likes of the Cherries not reflecting the end result, Sami Hyypia’s future at the club is not in immediate doubt, with matches against opponents that they could realistically pick up points against before they take a break for two weeks, with Wigan being the first of those this evening.

    After finishing last season on a high after the appointment of Uwe Rosler as boss helped spur them on to a top six finish, the Latics have endured a similarly frustrating start to this year’s campaign as Hyypia’s side They sit three places and points above the Seagulls on 16 points, with a two goal win for Albion ensuring that they would finish above their opponents at the end of the 90 minutes.

    Whilst the sides half only faced off a dozen times, it’s Brighton who have a narrow advantage in terms of wins, with six compared to the away side’s five, with only one draw in the first ever fixture between the pair in October 1987, which ended 3-3.

    Four of Albion’s wins have been on their own turf, but they haven’t picked up a victory in Sussex for over 13 years. On that day Peter Taylor’s side came from behind to claim all three points in a season that would see them seal back-to-back promotions from the bottom tier of league football to the second. Bobby Zamora and Lee Steele were on the score sheet for the home team at the Withdean.

    The last encounter between the two sides at the Amex last season saw the away side run out victors. James McCarthy and Chris McCann struck within the first 50 minutes of the game, with Leo Ulloa’s goal with just over 10 minute remaining not enough to turn the game around in their favour.

    A couple of changes will be forced on Hyypia for the visit of Wigan for Saturday’s game.

    With Ali Al-Habsi on-loan from Wigan, he will be unable to feature against his parent club tonight between the sticks. After his impressive first team debut away at Spurs last week, 18-year old shot stopper Christian Walton is likely to get the nod once again ahead of veteran ‘keeper Casper Ankergren.

    Having been stretchered off on 13 minutes with an ankle injury during Saturday’s game, Aaron Hughes is unable to play, meaning that with Bruno also still out of action Inigo Calderon returns at the right back.

    The midfield trio of Danny Holla, Gary Gardner and Jake Forster-Caskey is likely to remain the same, though Hyypia could choose to play Rohan Ince ahead of Holla.

    With Joao Teixeira having been on e of the highlights of Saturday’s performance at Bournemouth, along with Sam Baldock and Adrian Colunga opening their accounts for the club, there’s a case to be made that none of the three could or should be dropped for today’s game.

    However the return of Elliott Bennett on a month’s loan throws that suggestion up in the air. If the 25-year old doesn’t have his stay at the club extended, then he will only be available for the next four games. Therefore it’s likely Hyypia will want to get the most use from the Norwich midfielder as possible in his time here.

    Bennett would likely play in a similar position as Colunga and Teixeira, behind the solitary striker, somewhere he has played before for The Seagulls as well as out wide.

    Bennett likely to make return appearance for Albion tonight

    Ahead of what us likely to be his first appearance for the club in three years at the Amex tonight, Bennett spoke to the club’s official website about the side’s current position, and he feels people are judging things to early given the Championship’s unpredictable nature:

    "I think I am right in saying that the year Blackpool got promoted, they weren’t doing too well until after Christmas when they went on a crazy run.

    "Yes, the league position isn't great and it tells facts. The first third of the season hasn't been how everybody would maybe have envisaged it, but if you flip that around and the results go in your favour in the next two thirds of the season then you could still get promoted."

    Albion’s boss also spoke to the club website ahead of the upcoming game with the Latics, and whilst he has always had an idea if what their opponents will bring to the table, Hyypia admits there is some unpredictability in what Uwe Rosler’s side will do.

    "It’s a similar kind of challenge in every game we play. I don’t know if Wigan will come here to press us with a high tempo, which we’ve seen a few times this season or whether they will try to defend and hit us on the break.

    “We need to prepare everything for tomorrow night. They’re definitely a team that works very hard and tries to keep the tempo high all through the match."

    Both sides have significantly underachieved so far this season in terms of the expectations had by their support going into the campaign. Therefore there is pressure on each side to pick up a result.

    However there is no doubt that Hyypia is the boss who will be more hot under the collar – whether he admits it or not – going into this game. The Finn has already lost support from sections of the fan base, and won’t want another Amex game brought to a close with the sound of boos echoing around the stadium.

    But with a corner seemingly turned on Saturday with the strikers finally getting on the score sheet there is optimism that they can turn things around. Colunga’s goal was the prime example of attacking moves we should be looking to make each game, and hopefully we see more of that against Wigan.

    The signing of Bennett is also a huge boost, and if he can make an impact then there is every chance that Albion’s return to form starts tonight.
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