Albion versus Newcastle is starting to feel like the least local derby in English football.

And Bruno expects a “special” match - and atmosphere – at St James’ Park today.

The Seagulls skipper is likely to return to the XI after resting at Chelsea on Boxing Day.

He made a return of sorts at Newcastle last season too, when the addition of record buy Shane Duffy allowed him to revert to his favoured right-back role.

The 2-0 defeat which followed turned out to be a pivotal result in the title race, not that anyone suspected that would be the case at the time.

Rivalry between two clubs separated by 350 miles had really kicked in by the time Toon won 2-1 at the Amex later in the season.

The Premier League clash in September was played out at high intensity, both on the pitch and from the stands.

Bruno expects something similar today.

He told The Argus: “This will be a really tough game with the rivalry we have from afar. As teams, we are in very similar situations.

“They will be a tough team. We know their stadium.

“The atmosphere will be hot and, on New Year’s weekend, it will probably be even hotter. It feels like a special match.”

Albion were not at their best at St James’ Park last season although it took a header from just inside the box by Jamaal Lascelles, which David Stockdale should probably have saved, to put them in front.

The Seagulls were enjoying their best period of the game, in which Anthony Knockaert hit the bar, when Sam Baldock was unfortunate to be sent off He was caught by Matz Sels’ follow through as he closed down the goalkeeper and found a needless booking late in the first half coming back to haunt him as he was shown a second yellow.

Jonjo Shelvey settled the contest with a brilliant free-kick after a foul by Steve Sidwell 20 yards out.

Bruno said: “When we went last year we were not a team under construction exactly but we had had various changes.

“The team wasn’t at its best moment.

“We had a sending-off and it always comes to those details – chances you don’t take and, for them, a header from the edge of the area that goes in one time out of 100.”

Chris Hughton will make changes today – as indeed will Rafa Benitez after his five alterations at home to Manchester City in midweek.

Squad strength is key and Bruno believes recent weeks have brought progress on that front. That is both in terms of players coming in and others, such as himself and Pascal Gross, benefiting from a rest.

Both men were left out of the starting XI at Tottenham and Chelsea, although Gross got on near the end of both fixtures.

Bruno said: “We will have rotations and it is important to have a big squad to take on two matches in three days.

“We have now shown we have that.

“We have made a few changes and, with the players rested, you can see they are fresher afterwards.

“That is fundamental for this period and this could make a difference for us.”

Connor Goldson is among the options after his impressive return at home to Watford.

Not all squad rotations are made out of choice and Bruno is thrilled to see the ex-Shrewsbury giant proving he can be a force in the Premier League.

Not that his captain ever doubted it.

Bruno said: “He was spectacular against Watford. I was delighted for him because he deserved it.

“Our two centre-backs, Dunky and Shane, have been at a really good level all season.

“Connor and Uwe (Huenemeier) have kept working and you can see that now.

“That work they do day to day can be rewarded with matches and with good performances.

“Connor showed his mental strength.

“I was convinced he would be fine. I see how he trains, how motivated he is, how important it was for him to make his debut in the Premier League.”