• Championship Preview: Charlton Athletic v Brighton and Hove Albion

    With Chris Hughton’s reign as Albion boss getting off to a winning start in the FA Cup last weekend, Brighton’s new manager will now be looking to pick up his first points in the league with his side as they travel to The Valley to face an out-of-form Charlton side.

    The Seagulls left it late to make it through to the fourth round of the competition on Saturday, with Lewis Dunk opening the scoring on 88 minutes before Chris O’Grady made the game safe three minutes into added on time. They have been rewarded for that victory with a home tie against the current holders, Arsenal.

    It might not have been the most convincing of wins to start of his time at the club, but there is still a lot the former Norwich and Newcastle boss will be wanting to work on with his players as he gets to know the squad better.

    Between now and the cup clash with the Gunners, Hughton and his players have three important league games to concentrate on against sides in the top half of the table. With survival in the Championship the priority at this point in time, building on the current momentum of the side’s first back-to-back wins since August and their run of four games unbeaten is crucial.

    The first of those games will be the one that many will look as being the best opportunity for Albion to start clawing their way up the table, against a Charlton squad who’ve fallen away after an impressive start.

    Having made the most of their links with chairman Roland Duchatelet’s other clubs in Europe, the former Premier league side got off to a flying start under new boss Bob Peeters, losing only one game in their opening 13 matches.

    However they have failed to win in their last eight matches in all competitions, a run stretching back to November, and currently sit in mid table.

    The first encounter off the season between the two sides at the Amex came during the Addick’s strong start to this year’s campaign. The visitors took an early lead on four minutes through striker Igor Vetokele, and held a one-goal advantage for just over an hour before Lewis Dunk put The Seagulls level.

    Brighton’s young defender would be forced to come to their rescue once again after Charlton took the lead once more through Vetokele with 15 minutes to go. The 23-year old was in the right place in added on time to head home another equaliser and rescue a point for the home side.

    The Seagulls trip to the Valley last season saw them leave empty handed on Boxing Day in 2013. Poor playing conditions on a boggy Valley pitch, that has since been relayed, prevented Albion from hitting their stride, as they fell to a 3-2 defeat to the hosts over the Christmas period.

    Probably the most memorable visit to The Valley in recent times came in October 2010, as Gus Poyet’s table toppers swept aside their opponents in a stylish 4-0 thrashing, with current squad members Inigo Calderon and Kazenga LuaLua on the scoresheet that day.

    Whilst LuaLua, who signed a new long-term deal this week that keeps him at the club until 2018, is still unavailable for selection, Hughton will be boosted by the return of three regular starters for today’s game at the Valley.

    Joe Bennett and Jake Forster-Caskey have both recovered from injury problems, and the former is likely to slot straight back in at left back in place of Adam Chicksen.

    Adrian Colunga is also available once again, and could slot in up front with Craig Mackail-Smith or Sam Baldock.

    Having impressed when coming off the bench and scoring against the Bees last weekend, striker Chris O’Grady could also be in the running for a place in the starting XI in South East London this afternoon, and would offer a different option to both CMS and Baldock up top.

    Speaking to the club website ahead of the game, Hughton insisted that the side won’t get carried away about their upcoming FA Cup tie in two weeks, and will concentrate on the job at hand in the next three games.

    O'Grady could feature in starting lineup at The Valley

    "Last week was a very good result for us against a very good team and it's great that it has kept us in the competition.

    “By the time the Arsenal game comes around there will be great excitement, but as soon as Saturday night came it was very much planning for what arguably is more important for us.

    "We've got to make sure we get enough points in the league to see us okay and that starts on Saturday”

    Whilst the fourth round FA Cup tie against Arsenal will benefit the club win, lose or draw, in truth for most fans the priority is survival in the second tier of English football, and this fact doesn’t seem to be lost on the playing staff and management.

    Hughton was appointed because of his experience at this level, and whilst this is the first time he has joined a club as manager halfway through a season, that doesn’t negate from what he can bring to Albion.

    Having now had some time to work with the squad more, we may get a better understanding of how Albion will play under the former Norwich and Newcastle manager, and fans will be hoping it sees them move up the table as soon as possible.

    When looking at the current form of both sides, you’d say on paper it’s the perfect time for us to play Charlton. However they started the season strongly for a reason, and won’t make the game easy for us.

    However with the optimism and general feeling around the club having improved dramatically in the past couple of weeks, Albion will be taking a lot of momentum into today’s game. That is something they need to make the most of if they are to move up the table.

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