Villarreal visit Brighton in an attractive friendly

Tom Dulat

No, it's not a day out by the seaside! Villarreal take on Brighton and Hove Albion, of the English Championship, tomorrow at their Falmer, Sussex ground.

Villarreal's first two preseason friendlies have felt more like glorified training sessions, with a new eleven featured in every half and not a great deal of emphasis placed on the result. This one might be different.

Brighton and Hove Albion F.C., to give them their official title, compete in the English Championship. They joined the English league in 1920, and have survived in various divisions since, though in 1997 they only avoided losing their league place on goal difference, Hereford United going down instead.

Brighton's most successful period was from 1979 to 1983, when they competed in England's top flight (then called the First Division--the EPL hadn't been created yet), and in 1983, they made it to the FA Cup Final, drawing 2-2 with Manchester United before losing a replay 4-0, having beaten the likes of Liverpool, Manchester City, and Newcastle to get to the final.

In those long ago days, there was no US live broadcast of the FA Cup Final, or even major matches on the way to the final. I do remember watching highlights on ESPN of Brighton's victory over Liverpool, and their semifinal win over Sheffield Wednesday: as for the final itself, the BBC World Service on my short wave radio had to do!

At any rate, since that time the Seagulls have had all sorts of issues to deal with. Now, though, they are on the up. They made the playoffs last season under ex-Real Zaragoza player Gus Poyet,'s management, but lost out to Crystal Palace in the semifinals. Poyet was sacked under mysterious circumstances--learning of his termination while broadcasting the Spain-Nigeria Confederations Cup match for the BBC--and the new man is Oscar Garcia, who had a successful spell as manager of Maccabi Tel Aviv.

The Seagulls weren't great goal scorers last season, but the arrival of Leo Ulloa from Almeria helped things; he became the first Brighton player to net a hat trick at Brighton's AMEX stadium. He's in the squad this year, along with several Spanish players. Andrea Orlandi played for Alaves and Barcelona B before moving to Swansea City and then Brighton; he's an attacking midfielder who scored six times for the Seagulls last term.

Another ex-Alaves man and one of my "all-name" team, Iñigo Calderón, is a right back for Brighton, and the Seagulls have their own Bruno--Bruno Saltor, who many will remember as a member of first Almeria and later Valencia squads under Unai Emery. Other Brighton players you may have heard of include Tomasz Kuszczak--not one of my "all-name" team, since I can never spell the ex-Man United keeper's name correctly!, and Craig Mackail-Smith, a Scottish striker who was called up recently for a friendly against the US.

Brighton made a brief tour of Spain and defeated Sporting Gijón and Getafe, so I expect them to take this match seriously. This is only our third friendly, Brighton's fourth, and we've already signaled we are not terribly concerned about the outcome by leaving Giovanni dos Santos home to train. With Uche still out, we're going to be relying on Jony and Jéremy up front to calibrate their radar rather better than it has been so far, but to be honest I expect Marcelino will primarily be interested in looking at fielding a lineup that might be close to a starting back four and midfield, and giving our new goalkeeper a run-out.

So far I have not seen any notes about streams or radio, but we will post those as they become available. We know we will have some Villarreal supporters in attendance, including at least one member of this site, so maybe we'll get some post-match insight from them.

Here's hoping for a good match, no injuries, and a productive time for both teams. Endavant Villarreal!!

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