Roberto De Zerbi says he “wont’ take risks” over the fitness of his players as Brighton attempt to build on their impressive Premier League start at Aston Villa.
Brighton have taken 15 points from a possible 18 to sit third in the Premier League table after five games.
But boss De Zerbi has a few injury headaches ahead of Saturday’s trip to Villa Park. Adam Lallana, James Milner and Pascal Gross are ruled out, while captain Lewis Dunk is among those who missed the Carabao Cup defeat at Chelsea on Wednesday.
“In this moment I don’t want to take risks and lose the player,” said De Zerbi. “You can see without Dunk, Gross, Milner it’s a problem.
“It is difficult to substitute Lewis, he is very important to us.
“Pascal Gross in midfield gives more personality and more courage, he can be important in the build-up but is one of the best to score goals.
“Lallana has not a big injury, but for this game he can not play.”
Evan Ferguson, Brighton’s top Premier League scorer with four goals, is available after illness while Ansu Fati continues to build his fitness following his loan move from Barcelona.
Fati had 45 minutes at Chelsea following similar game-time in last weekend’s Premier League win over Bournemouth.
De Zerbi said: “When I choose the first XI I have to consider how much the player plays in the games before and the strategy of the game.
“I want to give everyone the possibility to play and then I have to analyse the performances.
“It was a plan with him (Fati) for 45 minutes at Chelsea and 45 minutes at Bournemouth because we are working to reach the best of his physical condition.
“If you lose days because you are injured it’s impossible to reach the best (condition) quickly. For him we are managing how much he plays.”
The two clubs’ previous meeting was on the final day of last season when Aston Villa’s 2-1 success saw them finish one position and one point below sixth-placed Brighton.
De Zerbi said: “We had already reached our target (European football).
“It was important, but not crucial in terms of target. It was not the best first XI we could choose.
“I remember very well the intensity and the difficult level of the game. The atmosphere was fantastic and we are looking to play better than last time.”