Newcastle United manager Steve Bruce may have referred to tomorrow’s match at St James’ Park as a cup final, while Brighton head coach Graham Potter is taking a more measured approach.
A haul of five points from five Premier League matches remains a source of frustration for Potter but he knows the majority of the pressure will be on his counter-part in the home dugout.
Newcastle have four points from five and home fans will fully expect victory against a Brighton team who have delivered decent performances so far this season despite their modest points haul.
It’s fair to say Bruce was not the most popular appointment following the departure of Rafa Benitez and he’s fully aware that failure to dispatch Potter’s Brighton at St James’ Park in the televised late kick-off will increase pressure further. Bruce knows it’s a cup final, while Potter continues to talk-up the importance of improvement and performance.
“Newcastle away is a difficult game,” said Potter. “We don’t target particular games we just focus on the match itself. What we need to do to play well and what we need to do to get a positive result.
“They have good players and a really experienced manager. I came across him last year (Potter at Swansea and Bruce at Sheffield Wednesday) and I have a lot of time and respect for him. It will be a hostile environment, they are a big club.
“Steve has had tremendous experience and tremendous success. He knows it’s a change (from Rafa) but he is experienced enough and clever enough to manage that process. I think he’ll do well there. His teams are well-organised and are always competitive and they have quality. He turned Sheffield Wednesday around really impressively and he’ll have an impact at Newcastle as well.”
Martin Montoya has recovered from illness and returns for Brighton while Newcastle could be boosted by the return of target man striker Andy Carroll, who is expected to take a place on the bench. It’s the first time this season Carroll has been available following his summer return to St James’ from West Ham
Potter said, “I imagine it’s a big boost having someone of his quality. It’s a different option. There are not too many like for like players like Andy Carroll around.
“He gives them an option but I have been impressed with how their front three have combined and played. They are a team that went away to Tottenham and won. They were competitive at Liverpool but for a couple of errors. They have good players, the crowd will get behind them and they will want to use that in a positive way.”
Just one point separates the two teams in the lower reaches of the table. While it’s too early to class this as a relegation battle, both will feel the importance of tomorrow’s occasion but both camps will also feel it’s a very winnable match.
“We don’t go there thinking this is not Manchester City so we can win. That’s not how it works,” Potter said with caution. “The opposition can cause you a problem ever where you go. If you can name me a team in the Premier League where it’s easy for Brighton to go and get points, there are not going to be too many.
“So we have to focus like that. I’m not interested in the perception of top six, middle table or bottom, we have to focus on the game and do our best.”