Brighton & Hove Albion manager Chris Hughton recognises that today’s game with Stoke City at the bet365 Stadium is a big one for both sides – but insists it won’t be season defining.
The Seagulls visit the Potteries with a sell-out anticipated, but the boss emphasised that it was too soon before the end of the campaign to dub the game as a ‘must-win’.
He said, “I think that’s surprising [it being billed as a must-win for both sides] because we always say every game is big for any side in this league, and I still think we’re far enough away from the end of the season for it not to be that sort of contest.
“But we both want three points because of the proximity between the two teams – so if that’s the thinking I think that’s more because they’re regarded as a very secure top-flight club and it’s a position that they’re not used to being in.
“We need to impose ourselves on them and create what we can – we know the crowd will get behind them if they have a good spell and we need to make sure we’re in the game enough that we don’t allow that to happen.”
Albion’s opponents this afternoon have taken four points since Paul Lambert took the reigns from Mark Hughes, and Hughton discussed what he expected from the hosts.
“They’re still a very big side and they’ll be a threat – we had a poor record defending corners in previous matches but we’ve improved that in recent weeks and that’s pleasing.
“At the moment I think they’re a good footballing side who have a lot of quality in the team, but I also think they’re very physical as well. So we’ll have to be wary of that.”
Stoke have become a top flight mainstay in recent seasons since their promotion to the Premier League in 2008.
When asked about the aspirations of the Seagulls, and whether the club had similar objectives to replicate that, the boss was keen to highlight the positive foundations already in place.
“When we talk about how far this club can go, we always speak about the potential we have given the facilities and the stadium.
“But it’s difficult to say – we want to become an established Premier League side and the only way to analyse that is by being there.
“We would like to think we’re on the up and especially between now and the end of the season – it’s unusual for all three promoted sides to stay up and that’s the level of the division nowadays.
“Testament to all three of us is that up until last weekend, all of us hadn’t been in the bottom three and I think that speaks highly of us all and we’ll all be hoping we can stay clear of the drop zone.”
Supporters can watch the manager's full look ahead to the game this afternoon on seagulls TV by clicking here.