Something's got to give on south coast
Brighton and Preston North End both worked themselves into some good form ahead of the international break.
It is form which will be put to the test when the sides meet at the Amex Stadium this weekend.
North End head to the south coast unbeaten in four games since the 5-0 mauling at Brentford a month ago.
Saturday’s hosts Albion are unbeaten in five league games, their one blip in the past month being a League Cup defeat to Reading.
They won four of those five unbeaten matches, beating Huddersfield, Burton, Barnsley and Sheffield Wednesday.
Goals from Sam Baldock and Anthony Knockaert gave the Seagulls a 2-1 victory over Wednesday at Hillsborough in their last game a fortnight ago.
That was Baldock’s third goal of the campaign and could help him keep his place in the forward line for PNE’s visit.
There is plenty of choice for Brighton manager Chris Hughton at the top end of the pitch.
Baldock partnered Glenn Murray at Wednesday, with Tomer Hemed having to make do with a place on the bench.
During the international break, Hemed scored twice for Israel.
Albion can also call on Elvis Manu up front, with Jamie Murphy, Knockaert and Jiri Skalak options on the wing.
Baldock knows his place is not safe, bearing in mind the competition.
Former Bristol City man Baldock said: “We have got two quality players, at least, for every position.
“The competition for places is really high and the manager has shown previously that, even after a victory, he is not afraid to change the team around.
“He is going to see who is fittest and most appropriate for each game.
“We’ve got the quality in the our squad to do that and we respect his decisions.
“The manager might look at the next game and feel a different shape is suitable or that we need to have a different approach.
“Hopefully, the longer things go on and the more we develop our philosophy, our shape and identity, we can stick with it from game to game.
“This is the Championship though, and no two games are similar.”
The competition is similar in midfield, Steve Sidwell and Oliver Norwood the central pairing at Wednesday.
Brighton were without the suspended Dale Stephens and injured Berman Kayal for that game.
Stephens returns for the North End clash but Kayal is unlikely to be back.
Sidwell is the last Albion player to have found the net against Preston – 14 years ago.
That was in a 2-2 draw at Deepdale in November 2002.
Brighton did beat North End 1-0 the following season but their goal that day was a Marlon Broomes own goal.
PNE won the next meeting 3-0, with the last four games having finished in 0-0 draws.
Sidwell joined Brighton on a permanent deal during the summer after being on loan from Stoke last term.
The 33-year-old said: “I’ve come with the mind-set I want to play and I’m good enough to be in the starting XI.
“If that is not the fact then that’s the manager’s call.
“We are fortunate here to have a healthy squad and competition for places.
“The most important thing is if you are not involved in the starting XI, you give the other boys encouragement.”