Brighton go into the play-offs in a rich vein of form, having gone unbeaten in their last nine Championship games. That run began with a 3-0 victory over Crystal Palace at the AMEX Stadium in March – a result that signalled the start of a dip in form for the Eagles.
Gus Poyet’s men are favourites to gain promotion to the Premier League following their late surge into fourth place. But they were on the wrong end of a resounding 3-0 scoreline when the two sides met at Selhurst in December.
Despite playing a fluid, attacking brand of football, Brighton boast the best defensive record in the Championship, having conceded just 43 goals in 46 league games this season. The Eagles’ front three will need to be at their best against a back line including the Premier League experience of Matthew Upson, Wayne Bridge and Tomasz Kuszczak.
At the other end, Leonardo Ulloa will be the Seagulls’ main goal threat, having found the net nine times since his January move from Spanish side Almeria.
No team that has finished fourth in English football’s second tier has been promoted in the past 15 years. The last team to reach the Premier League after finishing in that position was Charlton in 1998, following their dramatic penalty shootout win over Sunderland.
Crystal Palace: On loan midfielder Stephen Dobbie is ineligible to play against his parent club. Jonny Parr and Paddy McCarthy remain sidelined after long term injuries, but Ian Holloway has no fresh injury concerns following Saturday’s win over Peterborough. Jonny Williams is pushing for his first start since the 3-0 loss at Ipswich on 16th April.
Brighton: Scotland international striker Craig Mackail-Smith is still out of contention after suffering an Achilles tendon injury against Bristol City in March. Fellow front man George Barker has been ruled out by Gus Poyet, because he is currently in court at The Old Bailey on a charge of sexual assault. Another striker, Will Hoskins, remains sidelined with knee ligament damage.
Brighton are set to recall Wayne Bridge to the starting XI after he was rested against Wolves, while Inigo Calderon returns from suspension and could start ahead of Bruno at right-back.
Referee: Michael Oliver
Assistants: Michael McDonough and Adrian Holmes
Fourth Official: Stuart Attwell
PREVIOUS ENCOUNTERS AT SELHURST
The teams have met 46 times at Selhurst Park, with their first meeting coming as Third Division opponents in December 1920. Palace scored the odd goal in five on that occasion, en route to winning the league title.
It was almost six years before the two sides played again at Selhurst, with the Eagles again winning narrowly by a 2-1 scoreline. In fact, Palace remained unbeaten in the first six meetings between the teams in south London, with Brighton’s first away victory over the Eagles coming in a Third Division South fixture in February 1931.
Palace thrashed Brighton 5-0 three seasons later and went one better by hitting six past the Seagulls in their biggest ever home win over Brighton in February 1950.
It wasn’t until March 1978 that the teams met at Selhurst as Second Division opponents, as they played out a 0-0 draw. Palace won 3-1 the following season as both sides secured promotion to the old First Division. They met twice at Selhurst as top flight adversaries, with Palace drawing once and losing once.
The infamous ‘Game of Five Penalties’ in March 1989 saw Palace win 2-1 thanks to goals by Ian Wright and Mark Bright. That was to prove their last meeting at Selhurst for 14 years.
But their rivalry resumed in Division One in October 2002, when an equally historic Andy Johnson hat-trick set the Eagles on their way to a 5-0 triumph. Since then, the three Championship meetings between the teams have seen a mixed bag results, with both sides picking up one win each and the other game ending in a draw.
HEAD TO HEAD (home and away)
|Palace wins||Draws||Brighton wins|
There are now only a handful of tickets left for tonight's game. These tickets will be on sale on a first come, first served basis from the CPFC Box Office to Palace fans with a booking history. The club anticipate selling out by midday.
The club would like to remind all supporters that the game is a 7.45pm kick-off and to arrive early to avoid queues.
The stadium opens at 6.15pm with food and drink available in all areas.
Palace win: 6/4
Brighton win: 19/10
Commentary of the whole 90 minutes will be LIVE on Palace Player - CLICK HERE to subscribe or to login if you are already a member of the Player service.