Chris Hughton expects the scrap for Premier League survival to continue until the final weeks of the season as he prepares for Brighton’s trip to struggling Stoke.
The bottom half of the table remains extremely congested and 13th-placed Albion are just three points above the 18th-placed Potters ahead of Saturday’s meeting at the bet365 Stadium.
Seagulls manager Hughton, whose team have picked up four points from the last six available to edge away from the bottom three, does not envisage the current situation changing.
“It is tight and it will be the team that shows that little bit more, or is able to score goals, that can find themselves out of that group of teams,” said Hughton.
“But it’s incredibly competitive and I see that continuing.
“It seems like any game between two of those teams in that group of teams has instantly become a bigger game for both teams.
“You have to put yourself in a good position, there are still plenty of games to go but we know that we have to win a certain amount of those games and what you want is good form going into them.”
Despite their lowly position, Stoke have improved since they sacked Mark Hughes and replaced him with Paul Lambert last month.
Lambert picked up four points from his opening two games and then saw his team perform well at Bournemouth last week before ultimately surrendering the lead to lose 2-1.
Hughton, whose team won 3-1 at home to West Ham last weekend following a 1-1 draw at Southampton, has been impressed with the Potters’ recent displays.
“It will be difficult because they’re in good form at the moment,” Hughton added.
“We’ve watched their last few games and sometimes that can happen when a new manager comes in, they’re playing a different formation and the performances have been good.
“It will be a difficult game, we will certainly need to show some of the qualities and strengths that we’ve shown in our last away game at Southampton.”
Brighton will include record-signing Jurgen Locadia in their squad for the first time since his £14million move from PSV Eindhoven, but injured midfielders Steve Sidwell and Jiri Skalak remain sidelined with ankle problems.