Jason Thackeray is blogger at Brighton But Only At Home and writer for The Albion Mag. He joined us to answer some questions about Brighton heading into this match
Cottagers Confidential: You sit second in the table, and by GD, there is a pretty big gap between you and second place. Some advanced stats show that you are closer to first place than third. How much of this was expected, and how confident are you that you can finish the season in an automatic playoff spot?
Brighton But Only At Home: I think we all expected a good season if we could pick ourselves up from the disappointing end to last season. Chris Hughton has made some good signings and the squad has evolved rather than having radical surgery. I like the look of those E Ratings because they put Reading in the bottom three and they’re currently the side chasing us! For that reason, however, I don’t trust them.
You can only go on how you see opponents play in the game against you but we’ve already played some of the top sides. We drew 2-2 at Reading but with a makeshift defence. We beat Huddersfield who were time wasting and playing for a draw, beat Sheffield Wednesday away for the first time ever and thrashed Norwich, who need to get rid of Alex Neil to stay in touch. Based on that we should easily finish in the top 6 and second is very much in our own grasp. I expect Newcastle to head off in the sunset and be up from about the start of April.
CC: You have the best defense in the division by both traditional and advanced metrics, and it's not particularly close. What makes the defense so good and is there any hope for success against it?
BBOAH: Simple. In Dunk and Duffy we have two ball playing centre backs who win more or less everything in the air (we were a little weak in the air last season). In Bruno we have the best technical right back in the division and, in Gaeton Bong a very quick left back. We also now have cover for them all. The confidence the back four play with allow our two centre midfielders the confidence to hit teams on the break. Duffy was our record signing and came to us on the back of a sending off and two own goals, but he’s been magnificent.
CC: Your two losses were back to back 2-0 defeats to Newcastle and Brentford. What if anything can be learned about your weaknesses from those matches?
BBOAH: Against Brentford we just didn’t get started. Everyone has bad days at the office. There was also some fairly dubious refereeing. Newcastle just outplayed us. There’s not much to read in to that, now they’ve got going they’ll do the same to a lot of sides, They played Leeds off the park in front of a capacity Elland Road crowd at the weekend. If Fulham want a result they’ll have to close us down quickly, take their chances and not give Knockaert any space. Aston Villa managed all that and still only came away with 1-1 last week.
CC: Predicted lineup and result?
BBOAH: Predicted Line Up
Stockdale; Bruno, Dunk, Duffy, Bong; Knockaert, Stephens, Sidwell, Murphy; Baldock Murray
Score – 2-1 to Brighton