Ahead of next Monday’s Premier League fixture against Stoke City at the Amex, Martin Spinks of the Stoke Sentinel gave the lowdown on Brighton & Hove Albion’s next opponents.
What would be your overall assessment of the side’s campaign so far? They sit in 14th place with three wins, three draws and three losses...
It’s been a mixture really – there’s been the very good results against the likes of Arsenal and Manchester United both at home, but then there’s been some bad results too like the home defeat to AFC Bournemouth and the 7-2 defeat to Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium.
The good thing for the side is they’ve arrested the slide somewhat with the win at Watford and the result against Leicester City in their last game – with the latter being a similar sort of opponent to Brighton.
That was a big result at Watford – their first away win of the season – what was key to that?
I think there was a real determination from the players because they had taken some stick and they had a point to prove. They got a goal relatively early on which gave them something to hold on to and they defended admirably.
There seemed to be a resilience and steel about them that we hadn’t necessarily seen in previous matches as well. In the end it was a reasonably comfortable and deserved victory on the road.
Who’d be the one to watch on Monday evening if you were Brighton?
The obvious one is always Xherdan Shaqiri – he can have quiet games and quiet afternoons occasionally but he can also produce something out of nothing, either for himself or for somebody else.
He did that both at home against Leicester City and with his free-kick against Newcastle United – he’s full of moments like that and that’s something Brighton will have to guard against.
I think the other interest will be the goalkeeper - with Jack Butland being absent, it means Lee Grant will get his chance. He came in last year and we knew very little about him in terms of Premier League experience but he proved he was more than capable in similar circumstances last term.
He ended up as ‘Player of the Year’ too, so he’s more than able to do the job.
What about the manager – Mark Hughes?
Opinions on him are relatively split to be honest. It’s difficult to put a percentage on it but when you look at his overall record it’s clear to see he’s carried on with the great work already been done in the Premier League by Stoke City, there’s no doubt about that.
He can look back proudly on the last four-and-a-half years at the club but the future depends on results, especially as they have struggled at times already this term.
Just finally – what would represent success this season for Stoke City?
Anything above last season’s 13th place finish to be honest – they should certainly be looking at the top ten.
There’s a lot of teams who’ll find themselves safe in the league looking to the cup competitions too. It won’t happen for Stoke in the League Cup so I’d say the FA Cup has to be a big priority.
The club really needs a good run in that and if they are going to go out of it, they need to go out of it to better opposition than they have over the last few seasons.
But in the Premier League, top ten has to be the target, that would be successful and most fans would take that given where they are in the table at the moment.