ALBION could end up top of the Premier League this evening as they prepare to take on Crystal Palace.

The Seagulls currently sit sixth in the table, but a win at Selhurst Park will give them enough points to overtake leaders Liverpool.

However, the team has to take on an old foe, whose rivalry dates back almost half a century.

Despite the 37 mile gap between the two sides, Crystal Palace was the closest professional club to Brighton for many decades - until Crawley Town was promoted to the Football League in 2011.

While Albion and Crystal Palace formed in 1901 and 1905 respectively, the hatred between the two clubs began in earnest in the late 1970s when both teams were chasing promotion.

Former Tottenham teammates Terry Venables and Alan Mullery became arch-rivals as managers of the two teams as both sought to get promoted from the Third Division.

The first meeting between the two clubs in that season saw the game interrupted three times, with smoke bombs thrown onto the pitch, and after Albion suffered a 1-0 defeat to Palace in the FA Cup, Mullery allegedly entered Palace’s dressing room, threw £5 on the floor and told Venables: “Your team’s not worth that.” His actions got him fined £100 by the FA for bringing the game into disrepute.

The rivalry even descended into avian pettiness after Albion changed its nickname from the Dolphins to the Seagulls as we know them today, allegedly in response to Palace christening themselves the Eagles.

Mullary eventually went on to manage Palace in 1982, a move which attracted hostility from the club’s fans and saw crowds at their games drop.

While Brighton won most of the derbies through the 1980s, the career of Albion’s Gerry Ryan came to an abrupt end after suffering a broken leg in a tackle by Palace defender Henry Hughton.

However, Albion’s ownership problems of the 1990s meant the clubs parted ways - meeting only four times over 11 years. Brighton even risked being knocked out of the Football League altogether in 1997 and 1998.

The teams faced off again in September 2011 at the newly-opened Amex Stadium, with former Brighton striker Glenn Murray helping secure a win for Palace, having transferred to the club that summer. However, clashes between supporters saw 20 arrests and around 100 fans searched for weapons at the start of the match.

The rivalry took a bizarre turn in 2013, after human excrement was discovered smeared across the floor of Palace’s dressing room toilets ahead of a match at the Amex. While it was initially perceived to be an attempt to unsettle the club, former Place player Paddy McCarthy later claimed that their coach driver was responsible for “Poogate”.

Albion joined Crystal Palace in the Premier League in 2017, but visiting players at a match in Brighton saw several stewards from both clubs injured and fans forcing entry into the away end of the stadium. The rivalry also made its way onto the pitch in a match the following year, after Brighton defender Shane Duffy was sent off for a headbutt on Palace’s Patrick van Aanholt.

Ahead of tonight’s match at Selhurst Park, Brighton hold a narrow lead in their clashes with the club, with 40 wins to 38 losses, with 27 draws. However, Albion’s last win against Palace was over two years ago in an away game.

Tonight’s match is set to be full of tension and excitement, with a sense that the clash could really go either way. Football forecaster and blog FiveThirtyEight gives Albion a slight advantage, with a 38 per cent chance of a win, against Palace’s 33 per cent, and a 28 per cent chance of a draw.

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