• Championship Preview: Brighton and Hove Albion v Hull City; Saturday 12th September

    Having gone into the international break at the top of the Championship table, Albion will be looking to build on a strong opening start to the season when they welcome seconded place Hull City to the Amex tomorrow afternoon.

    The Seagulls ended August unbeaten in the league after coming away with a 3-2 win over Ipswich to take top spot in the division from the Tractor Boys. After going two up in the opening 15 minutes through goals from Kazenga LuaLua and Tomer Hemed, Chris Hughtonís side were pegged back by the Blues in the second half before Hemed struck again to seal all three points for the Seagulls.

    The result marked the end of an almost perfect first month of the season for Brighton, picking up four wins and a draw from their opening five games. Most fans wouldnít have predicted such a start to the campaign, and this will certainly have raised expectations going forward.

    The contrast to last seasonís performances and results is there to be seen already. This time a year ago we would be performing well enough in some games to warrant coming away with a win or a draw, but wouldnít be able to follow up on that and score goals to make that count. So far this campaign we are turning those margins in our favour, with all our league wins so far having been through a solitary goal.

    Unsurprisingly Albionís start meant that Hughton was handed the Championship Manager of the Month award for August, with LuaLua also being given the award for player of the month. The 24-year old has proven his critics wrong by showing that he can do much more than be an impact substitute. He has been a constant threat from out wide, and his three league goals have all been crucial in securing wins.

    Naturally having picked up the monthly award at such an early stage of the season, there is the attached superstition of the ďmanager of the month curseĒ that comes with it. Albion will be hoping that isnít the case when they take on Steve Bruceís side this afternoon.

    LuaLua & Hughton completed an Albion clean sweep of the August Championship awards (Image: Paul Hazlewood)

    The Tigers are back in the Championship after two years in the top-flight, and like all relegated sides they will be looking to bounce back into the Premier League at the first time of asking. However in recent years many sides have proved itís not an easy task, with Norwich and QPR being of the few exceptions do so in recent years.

    The Humberside outfit have started off the season strongly, with a defeat against Charlton three weeks ago being the margin that separates them from Albion. A win today for Hull would see them leapfrog Albion and into top spot. Having kept hold of a number of their squad players from their time in the top flight, they will be looking to the likes of Uruguayan international and record signing Abel Hernandez to provide the firepower tomorrow afternoon.

    Ahead of the game Albion will have their numbers boosted by a new arrival to the squad since the last game, along with a long awaited return from injury for another player.

    Elvis Manuís arrival from Dutch side Feyenoord was announced prior to the Ipswich game, however today will the first chance for Seagulls fans to get a glimpse of the forward in action. The 22-year old joins the club with an established pedigree of having playing experience at club level both domestically and on the continent, having featured in both the Champions League and Europa League last season.

    The Netherlands Under 21 international scored 12 goals last season for the Rotterdam-based side, and was linked with moves to Watford, Sporting Lisbon and Bayer Leverkusen before arriving at the Amex on a three-year deal. He brings another dimension to Hughtonís attacking options up front and out wide, and he is only likely to improve as he continues his development.

    After almost a year out through injury, Andrew Crofts could make a return to first team action on Saturday. The midfielder has been out since last October with an ACL injury, and has been playing in development games during the opening month of the season. With Beram Kayal and Dale Stephens having formed a formidable partnership in the middle of the park in the opening month of the season, the Welsh international is likely to make any comeback tomorrow afternoon from the bench.

    Manu scored for Feyenoord against Besiktas and Roma in European competitions last season (Image: Paul Hazlewood)

    The Seagulls go into the game with no new injury worries, whilst the visitors only absence will be midfielder Robert Snodgrass, who is recovering from a long term knee injury.

    In terms of bookmakerís odds ahead of the match, thereís very little to separate the two sides, with Albion being narrowly backed as the favourites in the region of 6/4 and 8/5 with the likes of SkyBet and Ladbrokes respectively. An away win for Steve Bruceís side is priced slightly longer at around 19/10, with a draw between the divisionís top two teams slightly longer at around 2/1 and 21/10. For a full comparison of prices by bookie, go to oddschecker.com

    After the way they started the season, itís understandable that the pressure and expectations on Albion will have been raised because of the performances that fans have seen in the first five games of the Championship season. Most fans will understand that itís not always going to be like that, and that they are likely to hit a bad patch at some point, but Hughton and his players will put that to the back of their mind.

    If facing a promotion challenging side like Ipswich was a step up two weeks ago, taking on the Tigers will be an even bigger test for Albion. They look in good shape to make a return to the Premier League at the first time of asking, and with the players at their disposal will make it a difficult afternoon for us at the Amex.

    Tomorrow is also about remembering those lost in the Shoreham Airshow disaster, with tributes for Matt Grimstone and Jacob Schilt planned ahead of kick off. Emotions will no doubt be running high amongst all with an association to the club. Whether people knew Matt or Jacob personally or not, the fact that they were part of the Albion family meant that their deaths hit home hard as supporters of the club. The way that the club has responded to this tragedy has made everyone proud to call themselves part of Brighton and Hove Albion. Hopefully the Amex as a whole will be in their seats by 2:30pm tomorrow to remember those whose lives were tragically cut short three weeks ago.
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