Brighton & Hove Albion visit the Britannia Stadium today for the FA Cup 5th round fixture. So Vital Stoke`s Ryan Kalisz earlier this week picked the brains of Vital BHA Editor Tom Walmsley and Co-Editor Brett Mendoza to find out what they thought of Stoke and the game their team were facing today.
RYAN KALISZ: First of all, hi Tom (and Brett). With Stoke being in the top division of the English football leagues, some Potters fans may not be that aware of what Brighton & Hove Albion are all about. Could you give us an overview of your club from a fans perspective?
TOM WALMSLEY:Very much a club on the up, new stadium, loaded lifelong Brighton fan for a Chairman and a very capable and young manager in Gus Poyet. We like to play football, we get the ball down and pass teams into submission which is great to watch after seasons of aimless hoof ball under old regimes.
BRETT MENDOZA Brighton is a club on the up. Top of League One, 5th Round of the FA Cup, A new stadium and academy on the way, with a bright young manager that has got us playing a passing brand of football like no other in the football league.
RK: What`s your favourite memory with Brighton?
TW: For me it`s the Play off final win over Bristol City, the occasion and the sea of Blue and White was really special. We had one dramatically in the last minute over Swindon to get there and in all honesty I felt it was destiny for us to be promoted in Cardiff.
BM: 8th February 1997. Fans United. Our club united the whole footballing world for 2 hours. Fans from all over England and the World converged on the Goldstone Ground to protest at the manner of how our club was being so badly run. We thrashed Hartlepool 5-0 and it kick started our greatest escape from relegation to non-league football.
RK: You`re flying high in the npower League 1 being 3 points clear at the top of the table and 2 games in hand. Are you confident you can carry on to claim the title and promotion to the Championship?
TW:At the start of the season I would have bitten anyone`s hand of who offered me the play offs. Now we are top though I would be gutted if we didn`t achieve automatic promotion however it`s a tight league and anyone can beat anyone on the day.
BM: The way we are going we should be fine. We have been top of the league for 145 consecutive days. The first hour against Hartlepool last week was the best I have ever seen us play in the 24 years I have been going. If we keep up our brilliant home record, promotion should take care of itself. Here's to hoping anyway.
RK: You`re on great form at the moment winning 4 games in the last 6, with your latest result being a 4-1 victory over Hartlepool. Do you think that your form will help you to give us a run for our money when you come to the Potteries?
TW: We will play a slightly weakened side at the Britannia our first choice goalkeeper and one of our centre backs will definitely be rested. However I still expect us to give you a decent game. Form counts for nothing in cup competitions but we have outplayed Portsmouth and Watford in earlier rounds so you won`t have an easy ride.
BM: I am not too sure how we will play this. We have a far more important game three days later against Plymouth, so maybe we will have of an eye on that? We have dubbed 'The Lower League Arsenal' so I just hope you don`t go into our players like you do with the real Arsenal! (joke)
RK: So which of your players should we look out for and why?
TW: The phrase "it`s a team game," has never applied more than it does to our side right now. Thus far there has been no stand out player in our team but if I had to choose one I would say Glenn Murray, we`ve dubbed him the lower league Berbatov because he is so unpredictable, but he is a pain to play against and has given Manchester City and Aston Villa a torrid time in recent seasons.
BM: Elliott Bennett. He has 22 assists and 5 goals from midfield this season, which means he has played apart in about 50% of our goals. He makes us tick!
RK: Reports say that Mathew Etherington should be fit for the cup fixture against you on Saturday. Is he someone you`d see as a threat or are there others from our squad that you`d be wary of?
TW: Strangely as it may sound my biggest worry comes from the two rugby players who you deploy at centre back especially when Delap lobs the ball in to the box. Our one weakness has been set pieces this season and i do think there is a chance that the will be the difference on Saturday afternoon
BM: Etherington is the one player I was worried about with Stoke. He is one that is not in the stereotypical Stoke player mould. I saw him play in his younger days for Peterborough, where he impressed me no end. Just hope we can cope with his pace and directness on goal.
RK: What do you think of Stoke City as an opposition? Is The Britannia Stadium an intimidating place to come to?
TW:Its freezing, the coldest place on earth I`m sure i saw away fans wearing hat and gloves during some pre season highlights in July. The home fans are excellent though and the noise should set a great atmosphere. Stoke have done tremendously since gaining promotion and have become a blue print for any Championship side who believe they can go up and stay there. It has the potential to be a wonderful cup tie.
BM: I have been to the Britannia 4 times, and we have lost every time. I don`t think that run will change. I just hope we get to celebrate a goal that means something - like taking the lead or equalising! Stoke have the loudest home fans I have ever encountered, but we will have a good old sing song too, if nothing else.
RK: If you could choose who to put out against us who would be in your squad?
TW: I would start with the same line up as Saturdays home win against Hartlepool however as mentioned earlier Gus will make changes. I expect Brighton to line up;
GK - Brezovan, RB -Calderon, CB - Greer (C) CB - Elphick, LB - Painter, Midfield - Bridcutt, Dicker, Bennett, Strikers - Murray, Banes, Wood.
BM: Keeper: Ankergren
Defenders: Calderon, Greer, El Abd, Painter
Midfielders: Dicker, Bridcutt, Bennett
Strikers: Murray, Wood, Barnes
RK: Of course the big question; what`s your predictions?
TW: Anything but a replay, We can`t afford any more fixtures! Seriously though I think you will just poach it 2-1, expect us to give you a scare though!
BM: 2-1 to Stoke. At least one sending off
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