• Championship Preview: Fulham v Brighton and Hove Albion; Saturday 15th August 2015

    Having notched up their second victory in as many games against Southend in the Capital One Cup midweek, Albion will look to keep the momentum going as they head into their next league game against Fulham tomorrow afternoon.

    The Seagulls left it late to seal their place in second round of the competition, and could have gone behind in the final ten minutes of the game had it not been for goalkeeper Niki Maenpaa, who was on his toes to push a goal bound volley from Anthony Wordsworth away to safety.

    Once again Kazenga LuaLua was the match winner for Albion, as he found space to sprint through the Shrimper’s defence, get on the end of Danny Holla’s through ball and slot home past Southend keeper Daniel Bentley in added on time at the end of the 90 minutes.

    Albion Linked Again With Free-Scoring Murphy

    The result means that Albion’s first month of the season becomes even more congested, with five games set to be played in the space of the next two weeks before the top two divisions take a breather for the first international break of the season in September.

    With the players having only just come back from pre-season, they will be in the best physical shape possible to cope with the workload, and Hughton has shown he is willing to rotate the line-up as and when he sees fit. Whilst there are concerns that the strength in depth isn’t there in all positions across the field, it is something the club has continued to work on throughout the summer.

    Albion’s options in the middle of defence were boosted earlier this week with the arrival of Uwe Hunemeier from German Second Division side SC Padeborn. The former Borussia Dortmund player joined Albion on a three-year deal for an undisclosed fee and brings a wealth of experience from his time in Germany, including spells in the Bundesliga. As captain of his former side, he will be another new addition that brings the natural leadership on the pitch that was seen to be lacking among last season’s squad.

    Image By Paul Hazlewood

    Hunemeier’s arrival immediately raised alarm bells regarding the future of Lewis Dunk – believed the subject of a number of bids from today’s opponents over the summer – at the Amex. However with only three centre backs in the first team squad there is a gap in the depth of the side that needed to be filled. If Dunk does remain, then Hunemeier will likely be competing with Skipper Gordon Greer for a starting berth.

    Having had a full pre-season under his belt, there is every chance the German could make his debut for Albion when they travel to Craven Cottage tomorrow, as they take on a Fulham side who, like Brighton, are seeking to put the disappoint of last season behind them.

    The Cottagers eventually finished the season in 17th place having endured a nightmare start to the campaign under the management of the unorthodox Felix Magath. Kit Symons took charge in September, and eventually steered them to safety after fears of a second relegation in as many years.

    Having trimmed the squad further this summer, Symons will be looking to see his side bounce back and aim for a return to the top flight at the earliest opportunity. They got their season underway with a 1-1 draw at Cardiff, though they would have been disappointed at having not won the game, after former Albion winger Craig Noone’s last minute strike snatched a point for the Bluebirds.

    After rotating the line-up for the midweek trip to Roots Hall, tomorrow’s starting XI is likely to more or less resemble the side that played against Forest on the opening day of the season.

    As previously mentioned, Hunemeier could come straight into the side for his Albion debut, and will at least be on the bench for the trip to West London. There’s every chance Liam Rosenior could retain his place from Tuesday night, with Bruno having a place on the bench.

    With all having been rested for the League cup match, Dale Stephens, Beram Kayal and Solly March will all likely come straight back into the line-up in midfield, along with strikers Tomer Hemed and Sam Baldock, who both came off the bench for 20 minutes on Tuesday.

    Image By Paul Hazlewood

    Hunemeier praised for his performances at Padeborn last season despite their relegation from the Bundesliga

    One striker who fans will be eager to see announced as part of the squad is, of course, Bobby Zamora. Until the Albion legend does make his first appearance since his return to the club, it will continue to be a question that is asked ahead of each game; although as time goes on, the sooner it is that he will be match fit and ready to play his part.

    Having not featured in the opening two games, the likelihood is that he will be at least on the bench within the next week or two, with tomorrow’s game providing a perfect scenario for him to make his comeback against another of his former teams.

    Whilst he enjoyed a long spell at West Ham, some of Bobby’s greatest accomplishments as a player were achieved while at Craven Cottage. After a slow start to his time at Fulham, he came into his own up front during their run in the Europa League in 2009-10, scoring crucial goals in games against the likes of Juventus and Wolfsburg to help Roy Hodgson’s side reach the final of the competition, where they ultimately came up short against Atletico Madrid.

    In terms of betting odds at the time of writing, as the home side, Fulham are the favourites going into the game. Most bookies are pricing them at 6/4 to win the tie, with the odds of an Albion win being in the region of 9/5, 2/1 and 15/8 depending on who you bet with. Despite having hit the net twice in as many games, Kazenga LuaLua at 10/1 to score first or 10/3 to score anytime could be worth a punt.

    You have to go back a fair few years to find a start to the season as strong as this for Albion. Two wins on the bounce after the opening week will give the side a great confidence boost going into their next few games, however at this stage it’s too early to say how much those results will mean in the closing stages of the campaign. Right now it’s a case of taking every game as it comes before assessing how they fit into the bigger picture.

    Fulham have their own aspirations of returning to the top flight, and won’t make it easy at either end of the pitch for us on Saturday. After a solid opening day performance followed up a close call in the cup, Albion will need another showing like they gave against Forest to come away with all three points from Craven Cottage.
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