Could it be the magic of Brighton rubbing off on their northern neighbours? Stoke City’s next home match against Albion could be their biggest home match this season. Albion have already sold out of their 3200-ticket allocation, so the Potters had better beware of some good visiting support!
Albion currently sit three points above Stoke and new manager Paul Lambert in the table. A few weeks ago, a six point gap was all that separated the eleventh-placed team and the bottom, but with the developments of the recent weeks, that six-point gap is now limited to the fifteenth-placed team. What does that important stat mean? It puts more pressure for teams to win, because now not even six points are enough if you want to sleep easy. Those teams above the relegation zone can afford to plod on for draws, and hope to marginalise their goal difference, but those teams at the bottom really have to make a difference, an attempt to win, in Oder to lift themselves out. Perhaps when they have traded places with a team in fifteenth place or lower, they can afford to play for draws.
A gap of six points DOES separate the eleventh-placed and the nineteenth-placed team, though – meaning Stoke, on eighteenth, could in theory vault themselves to safety with two wins, while Albion may slide uncomfortably towards the relegation zone. It is not a situation Brighton would want!
How will Chris Hughton set up the Brighton team? It is likely they will set up with a defensive line up knowing that the Potters will want to attack, and then try to burn them out of energy over the course of the game – and then hope to win it in the final stages. And as for Stoke, they will probably line up against Brighton in an attacking formation. Maybe Peter Crouch will start? Watch for the Brighton midfield to try to nullify Xherdan Shaqiri, as many of Stoke’s opponents have done – they realise he drives most of the Stoke offensive.
Brighton and Stoke promises to bring in more changes and twists to the relegation tale. Watch the match this weekend; it’s not one to miss! Can Brighton pull away further to safety?