The first chapter of the A23 Derby is also a milestone match for Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson, who will oversee his 100th match with the Eagles on Monday when they host Brighton and Hove Albion at Selhurst Park.
The 72-year-old Hodgson will be a centurion on the touchline for his fourth club at kickoff, having also been in charge of 100 matches while at Halmstads BK and Malmo in Sweden and also Fulham. Palace is the 16th club Hodgson has managed overall - not including national stints with Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, Finland, and England - and his rescue mission upon arriving at Selhurst Park in 2017 remains arguably one of the best relegation escape acts in the Premier League era.
Brighton hold a slim 40-38 lead in the all-time rivalry in addition to the 25 draws between the clubs as they make the 60-kilometre drive north from Sussex, but Hodgson is confident Palace (6-4-6) will be ready for the challenge as they look to stay in the top half of the table.
"For me in particular, going back a long way with the club, of course I have no difficulty understanding it," Hodgson told the team's official website, having been a lifelong Palace fan growing up."But even the foreign players that come in, it doesn't take them very long when they're a Crystal Palace player to understand that the Brighton game is one of the highlights of the season and one of the most important games of the season for everybody at the club, not least of all the fans.
There will be no concern for me in that regard, that the players will know what they're up against, know how important that occasion is and know how important it is that they really pull out all the stops."
Hodgson, though, will have to make some changes from Palace's scoreless draw at Watford on Dec. 7. The gaffer confirmed Joel Ward, Patrick Van Aanholt and Jeffrey Schlupp are unavailable for this match through injury, and centre back Mamadou Sakho will serve the second of this three-match red card ban for his challenge in Palace's win over Bournemouth on Dec. 3.
Despite the lack of depth at the back, Palace are seeking their first run of four top-flight shutouts since 1970. The Eagles are the fourth-stingiest group in the Premier League with 18 goals conceded, but their 14 scored are better than only last-place Watford (9).
Palace's 3-2-3 record at Selhurst Park this term is somewhat deceiving given all three losses have come to the top three teams in the table - Manchester City, Leicester City and Liverpool - by a combined 6-1 count. Hodgson's side have conceded just once in the other five contests.
Brighton (5-4-7) are three points and two places back of Palace and playing arguably their best football of the season. The Seagulls followed up a historic victory at Arsenal with a 2-2 draw at home versus Wolverhampton on Sunday. All four goals were scored in the opening half as Neal Maupay and Davy Propper netted in between Diogo Jota's two goals for Wolves.
The match concluded a bruising five-game gauntlet for Graham Potter's side, who lost to Manchester United, Leicester City, and Liverpool before claiming those four points. Like Hodgson, Potter is not shying away from the importance of the derby match Monday.
"I've been reminded of how important this match is to the supporters, pretty much every day," the first-year boss told Brighton's official website. "These games are always important for the supporters and we know how much it means to them. I'm sure it will be a lively atmosphere in front of the cameras and that's something we have to be able to deal with.
"There's enough in our group that have played in these types of matches, and they know how important this one is. You can tell that everyone is excited for it, there's a bit longer to wait for it, but I'm sure it will continue to build."
Potter will also be forced into at least one change as Dale Stephens picked up his fifth yellow card late versus Wolves and will serve a one-match ban. The Seagulls boss does not lack for options, especially with Australia international Aaron Mooy coming on of late and supported by Propper and Yves Bissouma.
"Whenever you lose players it's a loss for both the side and the player themselves. You can't necessarily replace like for like," Potter noted. "But the key thing is that we have other options and different players with different qualities. It's exciting for the group because someone gets the chance to play and then it's up to us to find the right solution."
Brighton did the double last term, which included a 2-1 victory at Selhurst Park in March. Anthony Knocakert's goal in the 74th minute proved decisive after Luka Milivojevic's penalty for Palace canceled out a first-half goal from Glenn Murray.