Brighton & Hove Albion midfielder Dale Stephens believes that tonight’s game against Stoke City at the Amex Stadium takes on extra significance because the two sides could be in similar positions come the end of the campaign.
The Seagulls host the Potters in front of the television cameras this evening on the south-coast and Stephens believes that that their opponents will pose a different kind of challenge compared to previous seasons.
He said, “It’s another tough game – they’re not the Stoke City of old, because they try to play a lot now and they’re not as in your face as previous years.
“I think they’ll be around us come the end of the season as well and so it’s a big game for both teams tonight.
“We want to stay in the division and at the moment we find ourselves in eighth, so we’re very happy with that – but we’re not looking too far ahead, we’ll take each game as it comes and try to pick up as many points as possible.”
With 11 games gone the club’s debut season in the Premier League, the former Charlton Athletic man insisted that he was feeling fit and had enjoyed his first taste of top-flight football so far.
“I feel physically good after the start to the season – we’ve not had as many games as in past seasons, and I feel good ahead of this busy period.
“I’ve enjoyed our start too – we’ve gathered some good confidence and belief, have played well in matches and we’ve done well at home.
“The West Ham and Swansea City results have been massive for us and now we have some big games coming up and they’re the ones you want to play in – when the fixtures come out you look to see when you’re playing the big teams.
“But they’re by no means free games, we approach every game in the same way – looking to win.”
Albion’s success owes a lot to manager Chris Hughton, and the midfielder was keen to highlight his characteristics, strengths and the impact he’s had on his game since he arrived at the club.
“The manager goes about his business quietly but his record speaks for itself.
“He’s a very humble guy and he’s been a massive part of what we’ve achieved here – he’s kept the coaching style the same and it’s been consistent.
“When he first came in I was injured and we were struggling at the time – but he gave me a chance in the team and I’m very grateful for that and I’ve never looked back since.
“His style suits my game because we’re a solid team and that suits my abilities. I’ve played a lot of games and got a lot of experience under him here.”