STEVE Harper is predicting a tough FA Cup tie against the Brighton and Hove Albion team he played for earlier this season.
Harper had a month on loan at Saturday’s fourth-round opponents, and he has given manager Alan Pardew the rundown on Gus Poyet’s side ahead of the televised game.
However, the goalkeeper is unlikely to be involved himself at the Amex Stadium because of a knee problem.
Brighton beat non-league Wrexham on penalties last week to progress past the third-round stage.
Harper – who played five games for the club – believes it has all the ingredients to be a classic cup tie.
“It’s good draw – but a tough draw,” said Harper.
“Brighton are very comfortable on the ball and play total football, and I can’t see the ball being in the air much.
“They have two very good centre-backs (Gordon Greer and Lewis Dunk), and have a lot of strength elsewhere too. The Amex will be full and Brighton have nothing to lose.”
Brighton are 10th in the Championship, and hoping to push on towards the play-offs between now and the end of what is their first season back in English football’s second tier after a spell in League One.
While the league is their priority, Poyet is still intending to play a strong side in the tie.
Harper added: “It’ll be a lively atmosphere, but it will be up to us to stop Brighton on what will be a tough evening.
“When I was there they only scored one in five, and they’ve only recently picked up. It could be a cracking game.”
Meanwhile, Newcastle midfielder Brad Inman, 20, faces at least two months on the sidelines after suffering a knee surgery in a behind-closed-doors reserve game against Leeds United last week,
United are also weighing up an improved offer for Watford’s Adrian Mariappa after having a bid for the defender turned down.
Alan Pardew is looking to strengthen his defence in this month’s transfer window.
But the club’s bid for Mariappa fell short of the Championship’s club’s valuation of Mariappa, who has 18 months left on his Vicarage Road deal.
Pardew – who lost Steven Taylor to long-term injury earlier in the season – is short of defensive cover.