We’ve spoken to two Brighton & Hove Albion fans about the big clash on Saturday – one being Lee Smith, who regularly attends Brighton’s home and away games, and the other being ‘We Are Brighton’, who have a website and run a successful twitter account about their beloved club. They told us how they think the game will go and they gave us a little more information about their club, players and manager.
1. Who are the players we will have to be looking out for – the danger men?
Lee: Our main man is Anthony Knockaert, our number 11 who Newcastle were rumoured to be after earlier on in the transfer window. In my opinion, he is the best player in the Championship. He’s very fast, very tricky, unpredictable and gets lots of assists and goals. His set pieces are incredible and if Newcastle give away free kicks, they could be very costly as he can score from impossible angles or can deliver the ball perfectly to our attackers. He has great work ethic and fantastic control.
We Are Brighton: Had we have scored two more goals last season we’d have beaten Middlesbrough to automatic promotion and Chris Hughton has gone about rectifying that by bringing Glenn Murray back to the club from Bournemouth on loan and he is another dangerous player for us. Beram Kayal is the heartbeat of the side in central midfield.
2. Has Chris Hughton changed anything since his arrival?
Lee replied: Since coming to Brighton, Hughton has brought us lots of experience and quality. Newcastle fans will know him very well, especially as he unfairly got sacked. He is tactically very good and also a very calm manager, which we like. He is popular with the fans and always makes the right subs in games. He has a mixture of youth and experience in the squad which works very well.
We Are Brighton: It was a slow start under Hughton when he first arrived. He mopped up the mess that Sami Hyypia’s six month reign had left behind and we limped to safety in 2014-15 although some of the football under Hughton was coma-inducing – we couldn’t buy a goal for love nor money and there were genuine questions about whether he was a man who, playing so negatively, could long term achieve the clubs aim of Premier League football. All that seems rather silly now as he spent well last summer, brought in players to play in his favoured 4-4-2 and since then , it’s been an absolutely fantastic time to be a Brighton and Hove Albion fan.
3. Are there many injuries in your squad, if so, how will that change how you will play or how you will line up?
Lee: In our defence, we have been struggling with injuries. Our injured defenders are Connor Goldson who was our Young Player of the Year last year and Uwe Hünemeier – another good centre back. Liam Rosenior got injured last week at Reading and is unlikely to be available. Uwe Hünemeier played 60 mins during the week and is hopeful of making the game on Saturday.
We Are Brighton: Captain Bruno has been playing as a makeshift centre-back given that Lewis Dunk has been our only fit player in that position all season, but it looks like he will have to revert to right back with Liam Rosenior now out. That will mean either a league debut for one of the development squad, Rohan Ince, who has spent the last three seasons as a midfielder reverting to centre-half where he used to play as a kid or we could use Uwe Hunemeier, who played his first hour of football in the EFL Cup win at Oxford in midweek after nine months out.
4. If you were able to tell Rafa Benitez how he could beat Brighton, what would you say?
Lee: I would say the key to beating us would be to get at Gaetan Bong, our left back and to also try and get a playmaker between our midfield and defence. Having pace would be key upfront. Also, having an extra midfielder than us could be pivotal for you. You need to be well disciplined and not give away silly free kicks as we can be a threat from set pieces.
We Are Brighton: The only game we’ve lost since February was in the Playoff Semi Final First Leg up at Sheffield Wednesday when we lost an incredible four players to injury inside the first hour. But with a makeshift back four out, I’d tell him to just go all out attack on us.
5. Which player(s) from Newcastle worry you the most?
Lee: Gayle would be the obvious one as his goals have been crucial for you but fortunately for us, he is injured. Matt Ritchie is another one. I rate him highly and was shocked that Bournemouth let him go. He is similar to Knockaert and I’m sure we’ll look at him in that category of danger. In the middle of park, you have quality in abundance. Also, your centre-backs will be a threat from set pieces.
We Are Brighton: Dwight Gayle would have almost definitely scored against us if he was fit. Matt Ritchie always seemed to play well against us for Bournemouth and he should tear this division up.
6. If you could steal one player from our team who would it be?
Lee: Perez. With your other two injuries up top, taking him away would leave you very short. He’d also play well with either Murray or Hemed and he would be great for us.
We Are Brighton: As I’ve already said, we are hugely understaffed defensively so Grant Hanley would do. Your best players all seem to be concentrated either out wide or up front where at the minute we are at our strongest. I’m a big fan of players who are feisty and aggressive so Mitrovic would be my second pick although I wouldn’t be paying any more than a quarter of what you forked out for him!
7. There has been lots of speculation regarding Anthony Knockaert’s future, are you confident you can keep hold of him?
Lee: Yeah, I’m 99% sure. He has already said he isn’t going anywhere. He is a down to earth guy who loves this club and I can’t see him leaving even if the club accept a bid. We can’t afford to lose him and I don’t think he will go to a Championship rival.
We Are Brighton: If Knockaert goes, our chances of going up drop significantly. Since he arrived in January, we have lost two league games, we score goals for fun and he is already up there as one of the best players ever to play for the Albion. It would take a bid of ridiculous proportions to make us part with him so fingers crossed Rafa doesn’t decide he is worth that much!
8. What are your views on Newcastle United? do you see us a threat? Will we get promoted?
Lee: Of course you are a threat! You are favourites and with your squad and the amount you’ve spent, you have no other option but to get promoted. You have all the pressure on you, and we will have to see how well you can take it. I think you will be up there all season but you could lose a couple of silly games and finish 3rd and go through to the Playoffs even though your fans have said you should walk the league. I think Brighton, Norwich and Newcastle will be promoted!
We Are Brighton: Like nearly everyone else, I think it would be a nightmare if you don’t win the league. You’ve got the best manager in the league, the most money and a squad full of Premier League players. I’ve also got a £300 double on you to win it with Man City for the Premier League title so from a personal point of view, it would be nice if you did do it!
9. Realistically, how do you think you will do this season? Playoffs? Automatic Promotion? Champions?
Lee: I’m 100% sure this is our year. We will go up.
We Are Brighton: On paper, the league is tougher this season as the three teams who have come down should all be there or thereabouts come the end of the season. I think we’ll definitely finish in the top six.
10. How will you line up on Saturday?
Lee: 4-4-2. Stockdale, Bruno, Hünemeier, Dunk, Bong, Knockaert, Kayal, Norwood, Skalák, Murray, Hemed.
We Are Brighton: Probably a solid 4-4-2. David Stockdale; Bruno, Lewis Dunk, Rohan Ince, Gaetan Bong, Steve Sidwell, Beram Kayal, Anthony Knockaert, Jiri Skalak; Sam Baldock, Glenn Murray
11. What’s your score prediction?
Lee: 2-1 Brighton. Dunk and Knockaert for Brighton, Ritchie for Newcastle!
We Are Brighton: We drew every single game away from home against promotion rivals last season and this year our two road trips have ended with points at Derby and Reading, so history suggests a draw. 1-1. Goalscorers being Murray for Brighton and Ritchie for Newcastle.