• Championship Preview: Brighton and Hove Albion v Wolverhampton Wanderers

    After falling to defeat at Reading earlier in the week, Albion will be hoping to continue their recent run of form at home as they welcome Wolves to the Amex this afternoon.

    Having made five changes to the starting line-up that saw off high-flying Derby the week before, Chris Hughton’s side came away empty handed from the Madejski as they were undone by a brace from Royals’ striker Jamie Mackie either side of half-time.

    Chris O’Grady found the back of the net from the penalty spot for the away side in-between Mackie’s goals, however the Seagulls didn’t do enough to leave Berkshire with any points on the night.

    With nine points separating them from the bottom three with ten games remaining in the Championship this season, Brighton’s manager insisted after the game that they are far from safe. Therefore they will need to continue to push for as many points as possible in the closing stages of the campaign.

    Having won their last three games at home, the expectations will be on Albion to pick up as many points as possible in the remaining five games to be played in their own back yard, however it won’t be an easy task to do so against a Wolves side who still have a lot to play for.

    The former Premier League side have continued to impress on their return to the division this season, and like Brentford, who were promoted alongside them from League One in the 2013-14 campaign, they are still fighting for a spot in the Championship Play-Offs come May.

    The game between the sides earlier this season will be remembered as the last for Sami Hyypia in charge of Brighton. Having taken the lead through on-loan Darren Bent in the opening ten minutes, the Seagulls’ chances of coming away with all three points were hampered after Bruno saw red for a challenge in the second half.

    Danny Batth would go on to score the equaliser for the home side in the 88th minute, with Hyypia resigning as Albion boss two days after the draw.

    Wanderers fans will have bad memories of their last visit to the south coast in 2013, as Albion ran out 2-0 winners in the final game of the season, sealing the away side’s relegation to League One, a year after dropping into the second tier of English football from the top flight.

    Kazenga LuaLua grabbed both goals on that occasion in the first half of the game, and he could once again cause misery for the travelling Wolves support.

    The 24-year old made his first start since the end of November at the Madejski on Tuesday night, and there is every chance he could line-up for his first appearance in the starting XI at the Amex in 2015 today.

    However with Inigo Calderon having been rested in the midweek defeat, he could make a return to the side, with LuaLua or Emannuel Ledesma likely to make way for Albion’s vice-captain.

    Two players who are both likely to return to the squad for this afternoon’s contest are Craig Mackail-Smith and Dale Stephens, with the pair having missed the midweek game with slight knocks, however Solly March is still struggling with the calf problem that he picked up a month ago.

    Ahead of today’s clash with Wolves, Hughton spoke on the club website about the number of changes in the squad that were made for their last game, and he’s said that he isn’t afraid to mix things up again today.

    “I’ve got a competitive squad and it’s very difficult to continue to play the same players week-in, week-out with the amount of games we have. When people look at my team selections I’m not a manager that changes as much as others but there are times when you have to freshen things up.

    We all know that when you’re winning games, you can make all the changes you want and nobody thinks about it but when you make changes and don’t win, sometimes it’s perceived as being down to changes. If I had the opportunity, I’d make the changes again as it gave the players an opportunity.”

    ​LuaLua struck twice in Albion's last encounter with Wolves in May 2013

    With the away form still stuttering, games like today will be crucial to ensure that the goal of Albion avoiding the drop this season is achieved.

    After recent performances at the Amex, we know that we can take the game to opponents on our own turf, however we also have to be wary of not opening up too much, because that offers a chance for Kenny Jackett’s side to punish us at the other end of the pitch.

    Having gone nine years without losing to Wolves, and having won 12 of the 25 games played between the sides over the years, our record has always suggests that we are a bogey team for them, but in the Championship stats like that can become irrelevant because of the unpredictable nature of games and how they will go.

    Any notion that this will be an easy contest because of the above should be thrown out the window. They have as much to play for as us at this point, and that will make today’s result a vital one for both sides.

    Whilst we are unlikely to see the nine point gap separating us from the bottom three be reduced to a point where we could realistically drop into the relegation zone, we can’t afford to take any chances at this point of the season.

    A fourth consecutive win at home would help make our situation safer, and there’s every chance that we can come away with the desired result against Wolves.
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