Albion chief executive Paul Barber has hit back at criticism of the Premier League ignited by Jamie Carragher, who labelled it "embarrassing" and "a joke".

Barber did not name Carragher but used his programme notes for Monday's FA Cup tie against Crystal Palace to defend the competitiveness of the Premier League.

Ex-Liverpool defender turned pundit Carragher's tirade came during Newcastle's 1-0 home defeat by runaway leaders Manchester City over Christmas.

Rafa Benitez set up the Seagulls' promoted rivals to frustrate Pep Guardiola's all-conquering City.

Carragher (below) said on Sky Sports: "It's not just Newcastle but the Premier League in general, when they come up against the top six, certainly at home, it's becoming embarrassing.

The Argus: "The Premier League now is becoming a bit of a joke league, with the top teams being so far ahead of the ones at the bottom. For those clubs, it's almost like they are accepting they are going to lose the game, as long as it is only one or two-nil.

"The Premier League has been built on every team having a go, that's why everyone around the world wants to watch it. Will they keep watching if they keep seeing football like that?"

Albion manager Chris Hughton has adopted similar tactics to Benitez in most of Albion's matches against the 'Big Six'.

Barber said: "Much has been said and written in recent weeks about the competitiveness of the Premier League.

"Yes, there is currently one outstanding team, and yes there are a few others who seem to be performing consistently above the levels of the rest of us.

"Beyond that, 14 clubs are separated by just 18 points. Nobody has been cut adrift.

"Let's be clear. We are competing against some of the biggest clubs in the world. They have huge resources. And it certainly makes some league games very difficult indeed.

"But, to my mind and relatively speaking, it was ever thus - so, to suggest the Premier League isn't competitive all of a sudden is, in my opinion, wide of the mark."

The Argus: Albion's last live game on Sky, at home to Bournemouth (above), ended in an entertaining 2-2 draw.

Barber said: "As Monday's game (Bournemouth) demonstrated, we are engaged in an intense and exciting battle in the Premier League - not just to preserve our hard-earned status at the top level (although this is absolutely our primary objective), but also to finish as high as we possibly can in this division.

"I don't recall us playing in any uncompetitive games so far!

"Like most other clubs around us, we will make the team selections and employ the tactics, home and away, that Chris and his staff believe are right and necessary and give us the best possible chance to meet our objectives.

"Our players will then do all they can to secure the results we need - and, yes, of course to entertain too.

"The Premier League continues to be the most watched in the world because even when there is great disparity between the bigger and smaller clubs, fans are intrigued as to how the contest will shape up and we all know that, football being what it is, a “shock result” is never too far away.

"It's true to some extent that the the EFL Championship is more open. This is because many clubs are of a similar size and generate similar levels of income.

"Those clubs that benefit from parachute payments do of course start with an advantage over those without although, as history shows, the additional income doesn't guarantee anything.

"The strength of English football's pyramid is much admired across the world and you only have to look to the third and fourth tiers and beyond to see just how exciting and competitive our national sport is and, as a consequence, just how many people continue to watch live football up and down the country."

Albion have a key game at next-to-bottom West Brom on Saturday before bidding to to take their first points off one of the 'Big Six' against Chelsea at the Amex, live on Sky.

Barber said: "Moving to 23 points from our 22 matches so far, and retaining our mid-table position - albeit with a very narrow gap to the danger area - represents a decent return and a solid foundation from which we hope to build to a position of safety as the second half of the season gathers pace."