Bolton hopes have been high recently. The club has clambered it's way up the table, going from 20th just over a month ago, to 9th today. They've been on one of the best runs of form we've seen in a long time, and suddenly people have gone from discussing relegation prospects to pushing for playoff places. Over the last 10 seasons, the team in 6th place has had an average of 73 points, meaning If the Trotters want to keep that hope alive, they should aim to earn at least 22 of the remaining 30 points available. To do so this stunningly good run will have to become the norm.
Aside from tough run in the middle of next month, hosting Brighton at the Reebok will be one of the hardest tests for the Trotters. Like Bolton, Albion are very much in form at the moment, being unbeaten in the last 6 matches, although there last match was a 0-0 draw with bottom-dwelling Bristol City. After spending much of the season in the top half of the table but below promotion spots, this recent push has them in the coveted 6th place. The importance of this match to both teams is not lost on Gus Poyet, who said that they "need to win the next two" and that this "will be one of the hardest games for us."
Luckily for Dougie and Bolton, most of the team news is bad for the Seagulls. Their top scorer this season Craig Mackail-Smith, who gave Bolton a lot of trouble in the reverse fixture, is out with an Achilles injury for the rest of the season. They are also without striker Will Hoskins, meaning that Poyet has just two strikers to choose from: Leonardo Ulloa and Ashley Barnes. They will also probably be without Wayne Bridge.
Despite his devotion to squad rotation, this match would be a good time for Dougie Freedman to field his best XI. Starting at the back, Adam Bogdan won't be available once again, which is alright as Andy Lonergan proved himself a competent replacement against Blackburn. As for his defense, the addition of Dawson as really strengthened the side, and he has formed a good partnership with Zat Knight. It is also a good assumption that Sam Ricketts will be right back, while Marcos Alonso holds up the left.
The midfield is an entirely more difficult question to suss. It is safe to say that the experiment with Darren Pratley on the right wing didn't work, and with Chris Eagles scoring a goal at the death, it seems like the wings could be Chung-Yong Lee and Eagles. Kevin Davies could also be nailed on for another start as it's easy for him to drop further back, changing things from a 4-4-2 to a 4-2-3-1. David Ngog would make a good partner for him in this role. Jay Spearing is guaranteed to be in the midfield, and Darren Pratley would be a good bet as well.
Overall, it's a strong side available. Bolton have the players, and they have the opportunity, so it's really going to come down to the manager. A loss wouldn't be the end of the world, but a win would bring us within 2 points of Brighton, a position we wouldn't have dreamed of a month ago, and would be a concrete step to a late, exciting promotion push. And it's within reach.