HOPE IS THAT NEW COME AT WEMBLEY
Seagulls aim for play-off revenge
‘With 100 per cent respect to Hull, this is winnable. We have a chance to progress’ Brighton’s Andrea Orlandi ‘If we can get past Brighton then all of a sudden we are in the quarter-finals and it gets exciting’ Hull City boss Steve Bruce
BRIGHTON star Andrea Orlandi is desperate to stay in the FA Cup – so Brighton can have the Wembley final that was so cruelly snatched away last year.
The Spaniard, 29, was part of the side beaten by arch-rivals Crystal Palace in last season’s Championship play-off semis, a defeat that ultimately saw manager Gus Poyet leave the club.
Having drawn 0-0 at Selhurst Park in the first leg, it appeared the hard work had been done, but a halfbaked performance at the Amex saw the Seagulls beaten 2-0.
And it is the memory of that meek surrender that will drive Orlandi on when Hull make the long trip to Sussex on Monday.
“We were all so disappointed not to reach Wembley last year,” said Orlandi. “We were hot favourites after the first leg, when we drew 0-0 at Palace. Then we played them at home in the second leg and played our worst game of the season.
“It hurt, because we looked really strong last season and we felt so confident. We all expected to play the final. But we let everyone down. Now we have a chance to redeem ourselves. If we beat Hull, we are just one game away.”
Poyet’s acrimonious departure led to the arrival of former Barcelona midfielder Oscar Garcia as manager and, after a slow start, the 40-year-old has guided Brighton to within a point of sixth place.
“Oscar is very different to Gus in the way he approaches the players,” adds Orlandi. “Gus is very passionate and would tell you what he was thinking. Oscar is more thoughtful and relaxed.
“He thinks about it, goes away and then maybe he will talk to you later. The training methods are different as well. The football we play at the minute is maybe more direct. It’s still based on possession, but it’s not like Gus, you know? He would always play from the back, no matter what. With Oscar, we try to get forward a little bit quicker.
“It’s not that we play direct football. We still try to keep the ball. Oscar came from Barcelona, so that will never change. But we’re just trying to have a plan B. Last season, we had Liam Bridcutt in midfield. He did a really good job between the defence and the midfield. So we would look for Liam or the wingers, that was all.
“Without him, we have to change and look for something a little bit different. So now, we can look for a striker running down the channel, something over the top. It’s just about making opponents think more.”
Not that Orlandi has been around for much of it. Injured – not for the first time in his career – in August, the winger spent four months on the treatment table and is only just returning to his best.
“I got injured on my birthday – the first game of the season,” he says.“I tore my lateral meniscus so I was out for nearly four months. I came back in December, played for the first time in January and now I’m finally playing regularly. It’s been really, really disappointing
“At Swansea, I got injured every January. It was like the curse of winter. It’s why I never got any consistency. But last season I played nearly 40 games and stayed injuryfree the whole year.
“So to get injured the first game of the new season was like ‘Here we go again’. But thankfully I’m back now.”
Yet if Oscar has not been able enjoy the fruits of Orlandi’s talent, he has certainly made use of his countryman’s flawless English.
“Oscar’s English is really good,” insists Orlandi. “But at first, he used to translate all his instructions from Spanish to English, so it took a little bit of time to send the message.
“So to have Spaniards in the team who could speak English was very important. But now he’s communicating very well and there is no need for that.”
And no need to do much homework on Hull, who were beaten 1-0 at the Amex last season.“I remember them very well,” said Orlandi, who scored seven goals in 36 games for Brighton last year.
“We managed to win, but it was the toughest game we had at home. They were really solid. They had good players and now they’ve added quality like Jake Livermore and Tom Huddlestone. But it’s not impossible. With 100 per cent respect to Hull, it’s winnable. We have a chance to progress, and we’re looking forward to it. To be one step away from Wembley is always exciting, and if you get a good draw then you never know.”
Keith Andrews is in contention for Brighton after a hamstring problem but Bruno is out with a thigh problem. Hull striker Sone Aluko is set to make his first start after four months out but new strikers Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long are cup-tied.
Tigers boss Steve Bruce has rested players in earlier rounds but won’t this time. He said:“It’s different at this stage. If we can get past Brighton then all of a sudden you’re in the quarter finals and it starts getting exciting.”
DREAM IS OVER: Former manager Gus Poyet looks on dejectedly as Brighton are denied a place in last season’s play-off final by Ian Holloway’s Crystal Palace
KEY MAN LEONA RDO ULLOA Brighton