Albion will look to continue their New Year revival and move into the top six with a win over fellow play-off hopefuls Derby.
Poyet’s men put a disappointing end to 2012 firmly behind them with two impressive wins since the turn of the year. A 3-0 win away to Ipswich was followed by a 2-0 success over Newcastle in the FA Cup, evoking memories of this time last year when the Seagulls went on a long unbeaten run.
Nigel Clough’s Rams sit just one place below the Albion in 10th, with the same amount of points, but one more game played. A youthful squad that has had to make do with mid-table mediocrity the past couple of seasons looks to finally be progressing towards a team who can challenge for promotion – although they’ll need to improve their away record, with just 3 wins from 13 on the road this term.
First team coach Charlie Oatway insists the players must turns their attentions away from the glamour of the cup for now, with an important 3 points up for grabs against a ‘well-drilled’ Derby.
He told seagulls.co.uk, “We’re realistic as a management group and the players are too. We know that Newcastle came here with a weakened squad, but again we can only beat what’s in front of us, and our players were magnificent on the day.
“We thoroughly deserved the win but we have got to be realistic with it, so it won’t be a problem to bring them back down to earth. The next round will be another great day for the club but for now we need to concentrate on the league and we’re back to that on Saturday.
“Nigel [Clough] will have them well-drilled. They do try to play and they are another strong outfit. There are a number of teams that could be there or thereabouts.”
Brighton & Hove Albion Team News:
Vicente has returned to training, but is unlikely to feature in the starting line-up, whilst fellow Spaniards Bruno and Inigo Calderon also remain short of fitness.
David Lopez will likely continue at right-back, whilst Poyet has to decide whether to put Will Buckley or Kazenga LuaLua back into the starting XI after opting for a narrow midfield last weekend.
Player to watch: Liam Bridcutt
The little midfield maestro caught the eye of the watching nation as he put in a man-of-the-match performance against Newcastle in Saturday’s televised cup tie. Albion fans have come to expect a ridiculously high standard from the 23-year-old ball-winner, and he continues to raise the bar each week.
Derby County Team News:
Winger Jamie Ward edges closer to a return following hamstring trouble, and is due for a late fitness test ahead of this one.
Fellow forwards Nathan Tyson and Theo Robinson are pushing for an involvement, however midfield Craig Bryson misses out with a knee injury.
Player to watch: Will Hughes
A graduate of the Derby youth system, 17-year-old Hughes has defied his tender years with some sparkling displays from midfield this season. The bleach-haired leftie, now an England under-21 international, is already being tracked by a number of European giants – and Albion fans will hope they’re not given too many examples of why on Saturday.
Albion have managed 2 wins and a draw from their 3 meetings since the Seagulls returned to the Championship, conceding no goals in the process.
An uneventful goalless draw was played out at Pride Park earlier this season, although most will recall the Seagulls’ stylish display at the Amex last year – with Vicente rolling back the years as he inspired the side to a 2-0 win.