• FA Cup Preview: Brighton and Hove Albion v Arsenal

    After putting on what many consider to be their best performance of the season against Ipswich in the week, Albion will be looking to take that confidence into today’s fourth round clash in the FA Cup as they play host to holders Arsenal in front of a sell-out Amex crowd and the BT Sport cameras.

    Chris Hughton’s side sealed an emphatic third win of the season at home as goals from Sam Baldock and a Joao Teixeira brace saw them pick up a 3-2 victory over the Tractor Boys, who have been one of the hardest sides for teams to beat in the Championship this season.

    The result also saw the Seagulls move six points clear of the relegation zone as their turnaround in the league under the former Newcastle and Norwich boss continued in fine fashion.

    There was a real need for Brighton to get back to winning ways on their own turf, with some of the top sides in the division still yet to make the trip to Sussex this season. After putting on a performance as they did will help in making their ground a fortress.

    However thoughts of league survival will now be put on the backburner as the club and its fans look forward to what is the biggest game of the season so far, as they welcome the Gunners to the Amex in the FA Cup for the second time in three years.

    Whilst the last encounter in 2013 was a big game for a number of reasons – most notably the Albion debut of Leonardo Ulloa – the fact that Arsene Wenger’s side come into the tie this time around having won the Cup last year makes it a much bigger spectacle.

    The Gunners ended their infamous nine-year drought without a trophy at Wembley last season, as they fought back from going 2-0 down after eight minutes to pick up a 3-2 win over Hull City – who knocked Albion out of the Cup in the fifth round of the competition that year - with Aaron Ramsey putting away the winning goal in extra time.

    With Arsenal having spent mot of their history in the top tier of English football, the two sides have faced each other on only 14 occasions in the past 80 years, with the Gunners having come out on top ten times, with The Seagulls having picked up two wins and another two games having ended all square.

    Ulloa scored Albion's second goal on his debut in clash with Gunners two years ago

    The last outing two years ago at the Amex saw Albion come from behind twice to level the game as it went into the closing stages, with Ashley Barnes and the aforementioned Ulloa scoring for the home side.

    However as the game drew to a close Gunners substitute Theo Walcott made his mark, with the England International’s deflected shot on 85 minutes proving the difference as the Premier League side progressed to the next round with a 3-2 victory.

    You have to go back to September 1982 for the last time Brighton recorded a victory in the fixture, as Gerry Ryan’s goal on 31 minutes sealed all three points for Jimmy Melia’s side in their last season in the top flight.

    With the Gunners likely to field a strong side this afternoon, Hughton will be pleased to see his options boosted with the return of Lewis Dunk

    The 23-year old – who was linked with a move to the Emirates a number of years ago – has served his one-match suspension after his sending off against Brentford, and will most likely go straight back into the starting XI.

    Jake Forster-Caskey and Craig Mackail-Smith are both back in contention after recovering from minor injury problems, however after the performance from the side on Wednesday night they may struggle to find a way back into the line-up.

    One player who will be missing from the squad is recent loanee Leon Best, who is cup-tied having played just over an hour in Derby’s third round win over Southport at the start of the month.

    Speaking on the club website ahead of the game, Hughton has urged his players to give it their all and put on a entertaining show in a game where they have little to lose, given the quality of their opponents.

    “There’s not one player who doesn’t want to play and it’s great for the club to be involved at this stage in the competition playing a team of Arsenal’s magnitude.

    Arsenal fan Forster-Caskey one of three Albion players likely to to be back in today's squad

    “I just hope that we can make it a really good day for everybody and if it’s a game we’re not able to win, then I hope the fans can go away and say we gave them everything and that they enjoyed what they saw.”

    Before his side make the trip to the Amex, Wenger spoke to the Gunners' club website about the tie from two years ago, and says that they need to be fully focused against a Seagulls side who will be looking to cause an upset.

    “In the cup you have to be ready from the start, and people like that can always surprise you if you’re not ready.

    “It’s always difficult in the Championship away from home. I remember it was a very difficult game two years ago against a team who were on the way up with Gus Poyet. We needed to dig deep to get out with a positive result.”

    A lot has changed since the teams met in 2013. Albion have gone through a host of new managers and players, with the quality of the squad having dropped in many peoples eyes, whilst the Gunners continue to excel and bring in top class players from across the world.

    Therefore many would expect that the game will be more of a foregone conclusion than it was last time. However since the appointment of Hughton we’ve looked sturdier at the back, and overall have looked much improved than under Sami Hyypia in the first half of the season.

    As it was two years ago, it won’t be an easy task for us to go toe-to-toe with Arsenal. Bringing on Jack Wilshire and Walcott in the second half helped swing the game on that occasion, and with even more quality players across the board having been brought in since then it makes today's challenge even greater.

    However in the FA Cup you never know what to expect. Chelsea and Manchester City being knocked out of the cup by Bradford and Middlesbrough respectively yesterday afternoon proves that the competition still provide the shocks and upsets that everyone loves.

    Therefore it’s within the realms of possibility that Brighton can serve ups some FA Cup magic and knock out the holders today.
    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Javeaseagull's Avatar
      Javeaseagull -
      Well, in hindsight, I was very proud of the team. Yes the first half was nothing to shout about, were they in awe of their opponents? I think so and going a goal down in 2 minutes they must have thought there were in for a tonking.
      Arsenal were cruising, let's be fair, but they did not kill us off.

      I was in a bar in Spain surrounded by Arsenal fans and to be fair they said to me that they were bricking it at the end!
      I was the only one in a Brighton shirt and got nothing except respect. Towards the end half the bar were cheering for Brighton but I think they had bets on!
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