Look forward to Wembley, but let’s focus on Southampton first - Scott McCarthy

On a scale of one to 10, how excited would you say you are about Brighton & Hove Albion’s upcoming trip to Wembley in the FA Cup semi finals?

Tuesday, 26th March 2019, 3:26 pm
Updated Tuesday, 26th March 2019, 4:26 pm
Action from Albion's match at Southampton earlier this season. Picture by Getty Images

Have you posted a picture of the view from your seat on social media? Purchased your commemorative replica shirt for the milking-the-cow price of £50? Bought 200 blue and white balloons off the internet?

Amid all the euphoria of securing a date with Manchester City, it seems to have been forgotten that the Albion are still in a relegation battle. And before facing Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Raheem Sterling and company - or should that be Kompany - under the arch, there is the small matter of Southampton’s visit to the Amex.

That will be a real test because although the Albion are unbeaten in three, when you delve a little deeper then our recent form isn’t actually that great.

A 1-0 home win over comfortably the worst side in the league in the shape of Huddersfield Town isn’t much to shout home about.

However good the 2-1 win away at Crystal Palace was, derby games are always something of an anomaly because of the hysteria and passion surrounding them which can often mean form and league position go out the window.

And when you look at the FA Cup quarter-final with Millwall in the cold light of day, a full strength Brighton side could only draw with the team 20th in the league below thanks to an absolutely horrific goalkeeping howler in the last minute.

The relegation zone is still only five points away with Cardiff City, the side occupying the place immediately below that dreaded dotted line, still to come to the Amex.

Southampton meanwhile are one place and three points behind the Albion. That makes Saturday’s game a six pointer, yet nobody seems to talking about the visit of the Saints. It’s all which Travelcard do I need to get to Wembley and where is the best place to drink around Baker Street?

Not so long ago, I wrote that Brighton being relegated would be a worthy sacrifice for seeing Lewis Dunk hoisting the FA Cup at Wembley come May 18th. Whilst that is still very much the case, it doesn’t mean that everyone should take their eyes off the Premier League relegation battle.

Southampton will be difficult opponents. They seem to have improved no end since appointing Ralph Hasenhüttl as manager and we are yet to beat them in the Premier League so far with all three of the previous meetings ending in draws. Defeat on Saturday is a real possibility, especially if we play as poorly as we have been since the turn of the year.

The last three results shouldn’t mask that.

By all means, be excited about the FA Cup. Given that the Albion average one semi final appearance every 58 and a half years, it could be 2077 before we next reach the final four of the competition, presuming climate change or artificial intelligence hasn’t killed us all off by then.

But don’t forget the battle to stay in the Premier League. There’s one FA Cup semi final to come but there’s three cup finals in the league against Southampton, Cardiff and Newcastle United.

Lose those and it could be train tickets to Rotherham and where to drink in Luton to worry about in six months time.

Win them and this will become the very best of seasons for the Albion.

Look forward to Wembley, but let’s remember to beat Southampton first.