Ipswich Town v Brighton: Blues face team similar to McCarthy sides of old
A victory against Brighton & Hove Albion in a top-of-the-table clash at Portman Road today, would be the perfect tonic for Mick McCarthy’s men, heading into the international break.
Town’s next game is at Reading on September 11 and their in-form players would go into their rest with their tails up and still top of the league, with a win.
It’s a battle between the Championship’s top two at Portman Road today, as Brighton & Hove Albion visit leaders, Ipswich Town.
The Blues lead the table on goal difference from the Seagulls and have the makings of a very exciting side, with wingers Ryan Fraser and Ainsley Maitland-Niles in scintillating early-season form.
The Blues are already averaging two goals a game in the league and yesterday added Polish centre-back Piotr Malarcyzk to their swelling ranks, while being on the verge of signing flying Australian winger Tommy Oar.
Malarcyzk could feature today, if he receives international clearance, and both will add quality to a squad which is brimming with confidence. In the past, the absence of six senior players would have severely hampered Town’s chances, although you sense McCarthy’s men would have still been able to eke a result from somewhere.
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It’s a different story now, and the Blues boss can be confident of having round pegs for round holes and a hungry group of players, desperate to win promotion this season.
Their credentials should be seriously tested today though against a Brighton side managed by former Norwich boss Chris Hughton.
Replacing Sami Hyypia just before the New Year, Hughton did enough to keep Brighton in the division, although a run of one win in the last 11 games of last season almost threw a spanner in the works.
This season, with one or two shrewd additions and the extremely skilful Kazenga Lualua currently on fire, Hughton looks to be moulding a team that can challenge the play-offs and one not too dissimilar to a McCarthy team of old.
While the Blues boss has added more flair to his ranks this term, Hughton’s side seem to be a dogged and hard-working outfit that look hard to beat.
Three 1-0 victories, one in the Capital One Cup and two in the league – all three goals being scored by the fleet-footed Lualua – have seen Brighton start well, while a settled back four, including new signings Uwe Hunemeier and Gaeten Bong, seems to have gelled immediately.
Hunemeier may be sacrificed today, now that £5m-rated Lewis Dunk’s future is secure at the AMEX, but Hughton will also be keen not to tinker with a winning formula.
They were defeated in the cup in midweek, away at Walsall, and while you could say it will be interesting to see how they react after a loss, the fact that Hughton made 10 changes in midweek should not have too much of a bearing.
However, the Seagulls have only faced one side currently in the top-half of the table, Nottingham Forest, and only two other players have scored for them in the league this season.
Ipswich already have six players on the scoresheet, and that’s without last season’s top-scorer, Daryl Murphy, troubling the goal charts.
McCarthy is certainly pleased with the strike options at his disposal, Freddie Sears, Brett Pitman and David McGoldrick having all netted twice already
He said: “It’s brilliant, there is real competition for places as we have four strikers and I would hate to be the one that’s not scored that’s for sure. They are really good players.
“Murph is missing at the moment, so we are down to three but good quality players in those positions and wide areas.”
McGoldrick ran the show at Doncaster in extra-time in midweek, and McCarthy is delighted to have the fit-again striker at his disposal.
“He’s as good as anyone on the ball at this level. The game got stretched on Tuesday and suited him perfectly,” McCarthy explained. “He was outstanding in that second half in extra-time and is one of the best players in the league.”
Asked about McGoldrick playing in a free role behind a lone striker, McCarthy added: “I tried that at Preston and it didn’t work out, we had to toughen up and do something else.
“What we were going to turned out different because they changed their shape and (Daniel) Johnson, in behind, was causing problems and we had to re-jig a bit.”
McCarthy is also happy with his options at the back, despite the blow of losing Christophe Berra.
“In terms of experience we are a bit short on numbers, but I’m not really worried when I’ve had Josh Emmanuel, Myles Kenlock and Josh Yorwerth play as well as they have.”
Christophe Berra, Teddy Bishop and Kevin Bru (all hamstring) and Luke Hyam (knee) are sidelined.
Last season’s top-scorer Daryl Murphy (calf) and Jonathan Parr (thigh) are also out.
New signing Piotr Malarcyzk will be on the bench if he receives international clearance.
The visitors have no injury worries ahead of the game.