Championship Preview: Crystal Palace face bitter rivals Brighton in promotion clash

There are several other local clashes in the second tier this weekend, as London rivals Charlton and Millwall meet, while Blackburn and Burnley square off at Ewood Park
Almost 50 miles separate Brighton from Crystal Palace, but theirs is one of the most fiercely-contested rivalry in the Football League.

The 1970s saw tensions rise between the clubs as they duelled it out at the top of the old Third Division, while Palace recently inflicted the Seagulls' first defeat at the Amex Stadium upon them.


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This weekend's clash sees added importancepiled on with both clubs desperately chasing promotion and Gus Poyet has demanded better from his Brighton squad after seeing them take just one point from the last nine available.

"The whole effort of the whole season is going away all because of ourselves," Poyet told BBC Sussex.

"We didn't have the opportunities in four months playing away from home as we did against Barnsley and Bolton and that is the story of our season.

"We are where we are [in terms of injuries and suspensions]. In normal conditions you'd have a couple of strikers on the bench to win the game for you but we cannot do that. The rest of the season's going to be fun."

On the other hand, Palace have won five of their last eight to leave them three points off second, but a comfortable nine points above the seventh-placed Seagulls.

Manager Ian Holloway is delighted with the momentum that his side have put together and is optimistically eyeing a place in the Premier League for next season.

"We've got nine games left now and we're not far off second place at the moment," he said.

"It's all about your form at the moment, and your belief and your energy. I can't fault our lads there."

Another storied rivalry will have another chapter added this weekend when Lancastrian rivals Blackburn and Burnley square off at Ewood Park. Neither side have managed to live up to their pre-season expectations and look set for a mid-table finish.

However, Rovers were denied the chance to feature in the FA Cup semi-finals by Millwall in midweek and Michael Appleton is desperate to soothe the pain of that defeat with a derby-day victory.

The Pole was released by Manchester United in the summer, but has done well for Gus Poyet's promotion-chasing Brighton this term. Facing the Championship's top-scorer, Glenn Murray, on Saturday, Kuszczak must draw on all his top-level nous to keep the Eagles out.
The Burnley hot-shot has sparked back into form in recent weeks, before drawing a blank against Hull City on Monday night but will be champing at the bit to net in the all-Lancashire clash at Ewood Park.
Millwall powered their way past Blackburn and into the FA Cup semi-finals thanks to their dominant and strong midfield. The former Tottenham man will need to remain committed if he is to link Chalrton's play in a fierce London derby.
"The whole mentality of the football club - in terms of taking it really personal and wanting to do something about it and put it right is really important," Appleton said to BBC Radio Lancashire.

"A victory against Burnley on Sunday will certainly go a long way to making me feel a lot better than I do and I'm sure it will be the same for the fans as well.

"It's been a good competition [the FA Cup] for us as we've had some really, really good performances.

"If we're weak over the next few days and let things get to us too much then we'll be almost like sitting ducks, so it's important to come back fighting."

The Clarets are three points above their rivals and nine off the play-offs and after going down narrowly to Hull City on Monday, boss Sean Dyche believes his players are struggling to match the expectations from the club's fans.

"The bigger picture for us is a fear in the group all of a sudden - mainly from the expectation," Dyche lamented.

"There is a massive expectation at this football club. The crowd want Premier League football, as simple as that.

"Forgetting about the resources available, forgetting about the players on the pitch, I said to the players that's what you've got to deal with. 

"It isn't going to go away, the expectation will be here so I said to the players it's about us changing it."

It is a weekend packed with local clashes and another one can be found in south London as Charlton host Wembley-bound Millwall.

The Lions overcame Blackburn in their sixth-round replay to set up a meeting with Wigan at the national stadium thanks to Danny Shittu's header and the Nigerian was ecstatic to have sent the Bermondsey side to Wembley.

"Words cannot describe it," the 32-year-old said. "To have got the goal means so much, I'm happy for the lads and for the gaffer [Kenny Jackett].

"It is a big day and either side can win when we play Wigan."

Fellow defender Shane Lowry also highlighted the importance of focusing on their league campaign, where Millwall are only five points above the bottom three.

He told BBC Sport: "Over the course of two lots of 90 minutes I think we were the better team and deserved to go through.

"But at the same time we need to get our league form right and concentrate on that first. Staying in the Championship is still a priority."

The Addicks picked up a 1-0 win at Huddersfield last week thanks to Callum Harriott's first senior goals and Charlton boss Chris Powell has backed the 19-year-old winger to make a lasting impression on the team.

"He's a talent," Powell beamed. "He's someone I felt trained particularly well. He has done well with the under-21s, he catches the eye and he is a hard worker.

"He has talent. He came on as a sub last Saturday and made us a bit livelier. He started against Peterborough, had an assist and earned his chance for today.

"He did exceptionally well for the goal and worked hard for the team. It is exceptional for him to score a goal at this level.

"We have high hopes for him. You know we do produce players at our club and he's another one on the production line."

The weekend in headlines
  • Crystal Palace boss Ian Holloway has been charged with improper conduct after confronting Leeds forward Luke Varney in the pitch in the sides' meeting last week. Forward Wilfried Zaha faces the same charge for gesturing to the Whites' fans during the game.
  • Brighton have signed a sponsorship deal with American Express that will see the company feature as kit sponsors to the Seagulls next season. The financial company already put their name to the club's stadium.
  • Charlton have signed experienced midfielder Mark Gower on loan from Swansea. The 34-year-old has made just one Premier League appearance this season.
  • Crystal Palace have allowed striker Jermaine Easter to join Millwall on loan for the second time in his career.

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