VINCE BLISSETT (@Vince_RFC) takes a look at Tuesday night's crunch clash between the leading two in the Championship.
Brighton v Newcastle | Tuesday 19:45 | Sky Sports
Brighton and Newcastle go head-to-head on the south coast in a huge game that’ll go a long way to determining who’ll end the season in the top-two.
With a win, Brighton will extend their lead at the top to four points over the Magpies, and more importantly to nine over Huddersfield. A win for Newcastle though will see them leapfrog Albion back to the top of the tree and an eight-point advantage over the Terriers.
It’s worth noting that Huddersfield have a very winnable game in-hand at Wolves still to play to claw back some ground on whomever drops points here.
Newcastle arrive off the back of a disappointing draw with Bristol City. I noted last week how they are capable of the odd bad result at St James’ so it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. Rafa Benitez’s men really peppered the goal in the second-half though and could easily of won that game.
The Toon now face a decisive week with trips to Brighton, Huddersfield and Reading all in the space of eight days so they’ll be desperate to get a positive result here.
If there is one word to describe Brighton’s win over Reading on Saturday it would be clinical. They created five good chances – all on the counter-attack – scoring three of them. I say Brighton created them but really each and every one was created by Reading making stupid mistakes.
The Seagulls are obviously a very good side and Chris Hughton got his tactics spot-on on Saturday; it worked a treat but on another day it could easily have failed. I may be a little biased here so forgive me but Sam Baldock got lucky with his touch for the first and the second and third goals were excellent counters but Ali Al-Habsi should have done much better with both.
Add in an excellent goalline clearance at 1-0 that, had it got in would have have levelled the scores and meant Reading would have sat back not allowing the next two goals, and it was a frustrating night for Royals supporters.
Brighton were full value for the win, don’t get me wrong, but the scoreline doesn’t tell the whole story.
I wouldn’t go as far as saying Benitez enjoyed what he saw at the Amex on Saturday but if he didn’t already know what not to do on Tuesday he will now. The question is will Hughton set his team up in the same way again to stifle the opposition and hit the on the counter or try and go toe-to-toe.
After Saturday whilst queuing for seemingly hours to get away from the ground I heard more than one set of fans saying they should go out and press Newcastle and take the game to them.
I can’t think of a worse tactic to employ. Brighton aren’t set up for that kind of game, in my opinion, and would play right into Newcastle’s hands. I can see this being a close tactical game in the first-half with neither team wanting to give the other the upper hand.
Both teams have the ability to counter with great effectiveness so a goal either way will surely open things up. Neither will want to lose, especially Newcastle and become Huddersfield’s sole target ahead of their clash on Saturday evening.
Back the sharp attacks to produce
The two best defences in terms of goals conceded are on show here and two of the top three in terms of goals scored but I’m backing the attackers to come up trumps in the end.
Newcastle are missing Dwight Gayle but that hasn’t been stopping them finding the back of the net recently. They’ve scored in 14 of 16 away games so far this season but have also started leaking a few goals both home and away.
Brighton, on the other hand, have scored in all but one of their home outings – defensively they’ve kept 10 clean sheets at the Amex but find themselves up against the top scorers in the league now.
There are a few routes I quite like going down here betting-wise – a draw (23/10 BetVictor) looks the most probably outcome but isn’t one I’d back with much confidence.
The half-time draw (21/20 Bet365) looks a much more tempting proposition as does Both Teams To Score in the second-half at 3/1 (William Hill) which I may end up backing but I’ll just back the simple Both Teams To Score here (21/20 BetStars) in a hotly-contested and tight encounter.
Brighton v Newcastle – Both Teams To Score (21/20 BetStars)