After a rather drawn-out and debate stirring international break, it’s back to league action as Albion host fellow promotion hopefuls Middlesbrough this weekend.
Poyet’s men will want to get back to winning (and scoring) ways after a mini-slump has seen the Seagulls go 3 games without a win, scoring just once along the way. The return from injury of top scorer Craig Mackail-Smith could be a timely one.
11th placed ‘Boro make the long journey south having recorded a mixed bag of results to date – on the road they’ve had impressive victories at Blackburn and Watford spoiled by earlier defeats to struggling Barnsley and Millwall. Naturally, Mowbray’s side long for some consistency.
Poyet is expecting another tight contest, citing that wise use of possession could be key between the two ball-playing sides.
He told seagulls.co.uk, “We were both very even last season. There was not one team who was much better than the other last season – that showed at the Amex and with a 1-0 win for them at the Riverside Stadium, which was because of an individual mistake by us.
“Middlesbrough have been in the Premier League and they want to get back which makes them another dangerous team, and they have a lot of good players. Their style makes them different and they will be winning plenty of games.
“The football will be the key on Saturday and whoever uses it best will get more out of the game.”
Mowbray recognises the numerous strengths of tomorrow’s opponents, but insists they must go out take the game to them.
He told the official site, “They have some good players and play an expansive game. They’re a really high-energy football team and both full-backs pretty much play as wingers.
“They’ve got some very, very good players, especially in the midfield and attacking areas. We’re going to have to be at our best to go there and get a result.
“But if we can repeat our performance from last year, we’ll make it difficult for them. Sometimes the best form of defence is attack and we have to get them on the back foot.”
Brighton & Hove Albion Team News:
Poyet is boosted by the return of Craig Mackail-Smith and Andrew Crofts, whilst Will Buckley has fully recovered from the knock that cut his afternoon short at Derby.
Will Hoskins has returned to training for the first time since pre-season, but is unlikely to be involved, whilst the elusive Vicente remains unavailable.
Player to watch: Craig Mackail-Smith
Set to return to the squad after a short spell on the sidelines – during which Albion have no doubt missed his immeasurable work-rate and darting runs to the near post. Mackail-Smith will be keen to continue where he left off, with 6 goals from 7 games so far this campaign.
Middlesbrough Team News:
‘Boro are without a host of first team regulars, including top scorer Lukas Jutkiewicz who recently sustained a knee injury in training.
Rhys Williams, Mustapha Carayol and Justin Hoyte also miss out, however Jonathan Woodgate could return to the side following three weeks on the sidelines.
Player to watch: Marvin Emnes
Another live-wire forward, Emnes was one of the standout performers at the Amex last season. Sure to keep the Albion backline on their toes, the sprightly Dutchman can prove a tough player to handle with his ability to hold the ball up, clever change of pace and lethal shooting from distance.
Albion took just a point from their two meetings with the Teesiders last season. The Riverside fixture ended in a narrow defeat, after a Casper Ankergren error (put kindly) allowed Scott McDonald to tap home into an empty net.
The reverse fixture saw a highly competitive 1-1 draw, with an impressive ‘Boro holding the upper hand for most the match. Albion did well to escape with a draw, as an Inigo Calderon header cancelled out Marvin Emnes’ similar effort.
Andy D’Urso is the man in the middle for this one.