• Championship Preview: Brighton and Hove Albion v Norwich City

    With the most recent international break behind them, Albion will be looking to upset the odds on their return to action in the Championship as they welcome high-flying Norwich City to the Amex on Good Friday.

    Prior to the two-week international period, Chris Hughton’s side put themselves in a strong position heading into the final seven games of the season as they secured all three points from their trip to Blackburn.

    After Rovers' Matt Kilgallon’s wayward header put the ball into the back of his own net midway through the first half, the nerves of the travelling Seagulls support were on tenterhooks as they watched their side put on a dogged defensive performance to keep hold of their lead for the remainder of the game. David Stockdale was forced into making a number of saves to keep their one goal advantage intact, as the home side looked for a way back into the game.

    However Brighton were able to hold on for the crucial victory in their fight to avoid the drop, with the win putting ten points between them and the Championship’s bottom three sides.

    Whilst the prospect of relegation now looks unlikely from the position they are sitting in, Hughton and his players know that they can’t breathe easy or turn their attentions towards next season until they have secured their safety.

    Picking up points at home will be key due to their recent form at the Amex, however they will have their work cut out if they are to keep all three points in Sussex with a win over today’s opponents.

    After parting company with former boss Neil Adams five days into the New Year, The Canaries have pushed on under the stewardship of former Hamilton boss Alex Neil. They have yet to lose an away league game since the turn of the year, and are in the thick of the action in the push for an automatic promotion place.

    Today’s game will also be the first time that the Yellows square off against their former boss, who now occupies that position in the home dugout.

    Hughton spent almost two years at Carrow Road after taking over the vacant managers job in the summer of 2012, and he successfully steered them to 11th in the Premier League that year. However the following season they found themselves struggling at the bottom end of the division and the former Newcastle boss found himself out of a job at the start of April last year.

    Whilst Albion’s manager will be looking for his side to get a win over his former team, recent games between the sides suggests that they will be hard pushed to do so this afternoon.

    Today’s visitors are unbeaten in their last five league games, and haven’t lost to Albion in Sussex since they faced off in the Old First Division at the Goldstone in 1982.

    The last encounter between the sides saw them play out a six-goal thriller in an end to end contest at Carrow Road that saw Sami Hyypia’s men come from behind twice to take the lead, before being pegged back to 3-3 with only a handful of minutes remaining in the contest.

    One man who didn’t feature that day in the Seagulls line-up was Lewis Dunk, however there’s every chance he could start today.

    The 23-year old is available for selection after serving a two-match ban for picking up ten bookings this season, and could return to the starting XI in place of Greg Halford

    Hughton could also hand a debut to recent loan signing Mustapha Carayol. The Middlesbrough winger has joined Albion until the end of the season, and will make up for the absence of the injured Sam Baldock and Solly March, with the latter now likely to be joining the former on the treatment table until the 2015-16 campaign.

    Carayol has been out of action for Boro since tearing his ACL in March last year

    Speaking on the club website ahead of today’s clash, Hughton spoke about the threat his former side will face, and he believes the players will step up to the challenge of taking their opponents head on in what is one of many tough games still to come in the closing stages of the season.

    “They are very much the in-form team at the moment, have a goal of getting automatic promotion and they have the squad to do it.

    We have some tough games at home, but these are the type of games that you look forward to. The prospect of playing a high-flying Norwich side at the Amex when we’re on the back of a good run ourselves is something to look forward to.”

    With the Championship entering it’s final month of regular competition, the next seven games will be crucial in deciding the fates of a number at teams at both ends of the table, including Brighton.

    Whilst we are now further away from the relegation zone than before, a few results going this way or that way could see us fall back towards the bottom three. On the other hand, if other results go our way and we pick up back-to-back victories over the Easter Weekend we could secure our position at this level for next year with five games remaining.

    Starting that run of games off with a win today won’t be an easy task. With the top of the division so congested, Norwich will be going into every game seeing it as a must win in an effort to make an immediate return to the top flight.

    They may go into this afternoon's game as favourites for many, however having seen off both Derby and Ipswich at home in recent months a new-found confidence has been established by us at the Amex, and our players will come out of the tunnel believing they can come away with all three points.
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