In the closest Championship title race in years, Chris Hughton’s Brighton & Hove Albion side are the club heading into the crucial final two games in the best form.
Following five wins on the bounce – including a 5-0 triumph over Fulham – here are, fittingly, five reasons that Brighton are ready to reach and cope with the Premier League.
They’ve got goals throughout the team
Tomer Hemed may have stolen the recent goalscoring headlines with six strikes in seven games, but the 18-goal Israeli is far from the Seagulls only scoring threat.
Veteran striker Bobby Zamora has netted seven times in this Championship campaign, and Jamie Murphy, James Wilson, and Dale Stephens all have five or more goals to their name.
As the league’s highest scorers, with 70 goals (and counting) in this league season, they’re increasingly running defences ragged, from all areas of the pitch. Just ask their last three opponents – Charlton, Fulham, and QPR – who conceded a combined total of 12 goals to Hughton’s men.
They have the stadium and the support
In all but name, Brighton’s Amex Stadium is a Premier League ground. It’s spectacular, modern and spacious. Well, it would be if the Seagulls weren’t getting such impressive crowds.
With the Championship’s second largest crowds behind Derby County, the Seagulls have averaged 25,369 fans this season. That’s already more than five Premier League sides, and you can expect this place to be packed to the rafters if the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal are in town next season.
That passionate match-going fanbase gives the club a financial boost, but perhaps even more importantly, inspires the 11 men in blue-and-white stripes to perform at their best. Don’t believe us? They’ve won 15 of their 22 home games in this Championship campaign.
They won’t crumble under pressure
Brighton’s title contenders of 2015-16 are in stark contrast to last season’s struggling bunch, with Hughton having built a steelier and more ruthless streak into a Seagulls side who looked hapless under Sami Hyppia – grinding out just one win in 18 Championship games.
This season, there have been no such jitters. They’ve won 18 games in all competitions by a single goal, suggesting they’re just as good at getting it done in tight, nervy games as they are at dispatching of strugglers like Fulham and Bristol City by a margin of four or five goals.
Heading into their two crucial final fixtures on the back of five successive wins, neither Derby County nor a trip to Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium will phase them. Speaking of which…
They have a fantastic record at Boro
We all know how unpredictable the Championship is, but there’s reason to believe that this is one long trip up north which the Albion players look forward to.
The Seagulls have taken seven points from their last three trips to Teesside, and following Boro’s mini-wobble which has seen them drop points in their last two games, who would bet against the Seagulls flying high again at the Riverside?
Chris Hughton has won the Championship before
We’ve all heard the term ‘Championship manager’. It’s someone with experience of this division, who knows what it takes to win promotion. And Hughton managed to do that in some style as Newcastle United boss in 2009-10.
After a dreadful relegation for the Magpies, Hughton brought them directly back up with an incredible total of 102 points. Following that dire campaign which began with Hyypia in charge, it seems that the former Northern Ireland international could be set to land promotion – and possibly top spot again.
Despite being behind Burnley and Middlesbrough on goal difference only, the Seagulls are 6/1 to win the Championship this season, which could prove a popular bet.
The East Sussex club are next in action on Monday when they welcome Derby County to the coast. The Seagulls are 11/20 to win, with County 5/1 to crush the hosts’ promotion hopes.
And, for any really ambitious Seagulls fans inspired by the Leicester City dream, we’re offering 500/1 for Albion to finish in the top four of next season’s Premier League, and 7500/1 for Chris Hughton’s men to win the division.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.