A 5th Round visit from Derby awaits the winners of West Brom’s FA Cup replay with Brighton and Gab Sutton (@_FootbalLab) picks his best bet.
West Brom v Brighton | Wednesday 6th February 2019, 20:05 | BT Sport
There’s West Brom fans who recall childhood memories of watching Graham Williams lift the FA Cup at the old Wembley in 1968, thinking that victory over Everton could be the prelude to further glory – instead, their team has not since reached the final.
Brighton & Hove Albion though have only done so once in their history.
The Seagulls faced Manchester United in 1983 but, after the infamous “and Smith must score” moment that saw Gordon Smith force an unlikely save from Gary Bailey, they drew the initial tie 2-2 before losing the replay 4-0 to Ron Atkinson’s Reds.
A large proportion of both sets of Albion supporters would be willing to compromise league performance to reach those heights once again.
While Darren Moore and Chris Hughton are answerable to their respective boards for delivering Premier League football in 2019-20, therefore, it is also important that they make the best possible fist of this competition.
Ali J to star?
Alireza Jahanbakhsh has taken a little longer to acclimatise to English football than he might have hoped.
Perhaps he has struggled with injury, perhaps he has found it difficult to settle into a new country, but either way the man on whom Brighton broke their record transfer fee has almost been forgotten about, due to the form of Solly March.
However, Chris Hughton has sensibly taken the pressure off the 25-year-old by saying that next season might be his time to shine.
The boss might see the FA Cup as an opportunity to lend him some minutes in a game that will be about striving for a positive outcome, rather than avoiding a negative one.
Let’s not forget – Jahanbakhsh is a good player.
He starred in the Eredivisie last term for AZ Alkmar by scoring 21 goals in 33 appearances; he also offers pace, skill and creativity, qualities which made him the main counter-attacking outlet for a competitive Iran side at the World Cup.
Contrast in depth
Another strong World Cup performer was powerful Nigerian Leon Balogun, who Hughton can reliably bring in along with Dan Burn, should he wish to rest Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy.
Ball-winner Beram Kayal and wide man, meanwhile, were two of the best players in the Championship last time last played in that division, yet neither made Brighton’s eleven in Saturday’s 0-0 home draw with Watford; hardworking forward Florin Andone came off the bench.
West Brom boosted their options slightly on Deadline Day by bringing in Jacob Murphy.
However, fellow winger Jefferson Montero has never started for Swansea under Graham Potter, while midfielder Stefan Johansen has started only two Premier League games for Fulham since mid-September.
The Baggies have looked top-heavy this term, because the defence has looked unconvincing while the midfield has been unable to control games for long periods.
Moore’s men have almost got away with that in the Championship, due to a combination of opposing teams missing chances and their attack proving amongst the division’s most productive during brief spells of prominence.
It is possible that on Wednesday, they will face a Premier League side capable of not only matching West Brom in terms of quality at the top of the pitch, but also proving superior in terms of structure, organisation and control.
The Betting Angle
Brighton proved the superior outfit in the initial tie, even if they could not quite finish their chances.
The Seagulls have a wonderful opportunity to reach the Fifth Round by winning this match, then host Derby for a place in the Quarter-Finals, which will involve a maximum of two teams from the Premier League’s top six.
If Chris Hughton’s side produce the same level of application in this match as they did in the previous meeting, they are more than capable of attaining victory inside 90 minutes – and Jahanbakhsh might just kick his Brighton career into life.
West Brom v Brighton – Alireza Jahanbakhsh to score and Brighton to win (5/1 Boylesports)