Brighton & Hove Albion visits Preston North End this week, knowing fully well that they cannot afford any slip-ups now. With Newcastle United seeing a slide in their form lately, it is an ideal time for Brighton to capitalise on the slim lead that they have on the Magpies before they play them at the end of January.
Their next opponents will, however, not be easy by any means. After their brilliant FA Cup display against North London giants Arsenal, where they dominated the first half quite convincingly without allowing the Gunners any space, the team will surely be brimming with confidence despite the eventual defeat.
Preston rightly showed that Brighton cannot have any loose ends when they play them at Deepdale. They are currently 11th in the Championship, six points below the playoff position and they have no reason to believe they cannot achieve that.
A positive aspect will definitely be Brighton’s away form. They have gathered 25 points from 12 away games, which is the second best in the Championship after Newcastle United.
After a second team deployed by Chris Hughton more or less did the job for Brighton against MK Dons in their FA Cup third round, Hughton is expected to go back to his first eleven, who have been quite impressive in the season so far.
David Stockdale should return to his position under the bar. He was rested in the FA Cup schedule and is expected to be fresh for this game. Brighton will continue to be without Lewis Dunk through suspension. Dunk is expected to return to the team on January 15th, after serving a two-match ban for collecting 10 yellow cards this season.
The rest three are expected to remain the same. Gaetan Bong and Bruno are expected to start on the defensive flanks with Shane Duffy and Uwe Huenemeier taking the central defensive roles. Huenemeier has returned strong and fit after he broke his hand, and Hughton will be needing his experience at the back.
The frustrating suspension for Kazenga LuaLua will continue this week as well. If not for the postponement of the match against QPR, he could have a part of the starting line-up this week.
Steve Sidwell and Beram Kayal started the game against MK Dons in the midfield. We expect Dale Stephens to join Oliver Norwood in the midfield this time with Solly March and Knockaert starting on the flanks.
Tomer Hemed started the game up top against MK Dons in the weekend but Glenn Murray and Sam Baldock are expected to take their place this time.