LONDON (Reuters) - Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson has warned his players not to let their hearts rule their heads and has called on fans to behave when fierce rivals Brighton & Hove Albion come to Selhurst Park in the Premier League on Saturday.
The reverse fixture in November was marred by crowd trouble which Brighton blamed on Palace fans without tickets trying to force their way into the stadium. Two stewards were hurt.
South London Palace and south coast Brighton are 50 miles apart geographically but a bitter rivalry has developed down the years and Saturday’s clash promises to be a tense affair as both clubs strive to avoid relegation.
With five games remaining, Palace are one place and three points above the bottom three with Brighton four points better off in 13th place and with a game in hand.
“As far as we are concerned, these last five games have enormous importance irrespective of who we play,” Hodgson said on Thursday. “But given the fact that it is Brighton and there is this enormous rivalry between the two teams I can’t deny it gives it an extra edge.
“We must not allow our hearts to rule our heads to the extent that we make mistakes tactically or by showing too much emotion which maybe leads to a player getting booked or sent off which can happen in these derby games.”
Hodgson said he hoped the fans do not allow the occasion to boil over into anything ugly.
“I would say to the fans we do need your support no question of that but we don’t wish to see any trouble and I extend that message to the Brighton fans as well,” the former England manager said.
“I’m rather hoping, and you might call me naive to hope for it, that the people who come to this game are coming because they really want to support their teams.
“The type of scenes that come about through rivalry spilling over into fights and tribal warfare really have got nothing to do with what I see in terms of football.”
Hodgson will be able to call on strikers Christian Benteke and Alexander Sorloth after both resumed training after injuries.
Benteke missed last weekend’s draw away to Bournemouth with a groin injury while Sorloth has recovered from a hamstring problem.
“Alexander Sorloth trained for the first time today and came through the session well whilst Christian Benteke has made enormous progress,” Hodgson said.
Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Christian Radnedge