De Zerbi confident Brighton have enough leaders to cover for Dunk as he namechecks six players

News Desk
Roberto De Zerbi before a match against Luton Town.
Roberto De Zerbi has been linked with a host of top European clubs.

Brighton boss Roberto De Zerbi reckons his squad have enough leaders to fill in for captain Lewis Dunk ahead of their return to Premier League action.

The Seagulls lost 3-2 to AEK Athens at the Amex Stadium on Thursday evening as their first Europa League campaign got off to an underwhelming start.

England international Dunk had been a key player so far this season but his absence was noticeable as Brighton conceded two goals via set-pieces in midweek.

Having picked up an unspecified muscular problem during the win at Manchester United last weekend, the England defender could be rested again for Sunday’s visit of Bournemouth.

Midfielder Pascal Gross captained the side on Thursday night, but the midfielder is another who continues to be assessed on his own muscle issue as does James Milner.

De Zerbi, though, is confident there is enough within the dressing room to cover.

“We can’t take risk (on Dunk) especially in this part of the season,” the Brighton boss said.

“We have to find another leader. Pascal Gross is a big leader for us, Danny (Welbeck) is a big leader.

“Adam Webster is a leader, one of the best inside the dressing room. When he played, he played every game in a good way.

“Then we have a lot of young players and they have to grow in leadership – like Billy Gilmour and Mahmoud Dahoud also Pervis Estupinan. He is young, but has the right experience to become another leader.”

READ MORE: Brighton experience the irritation and disjointedness that is so often the Europa hallmark

Evan Ferguson could return having missed Thursday’s game through illness, while on-loan Barcelona forward Ansu Fati will be hoping for another opportunity after making a first start against AEK.

De Zerbi made seven changes from the side which won at Old Trafford, and knows the extra workload this season must be shared – both on and off the pitch.

“We are not used to playing three games (in a week). West Ham last year were in the (Europa) Conference League and Liverpool the Champions League, but we are not used to it,” he told a press conference.

“We have to change and we have to put everyone in. We have to adapt, not only the players but also the people who work inside (the club) – we have not so many days off, we have to organise not only one game, but three games.

“We can’t put the focus only on the game for tomorrow – with the attitude and attention yes, but we have work thinking we play every three days. It is totally different.”

De Zerbi added: “We wanted to reach the Europa League and now we need to push (on in the season) without too many words.

“We have to be proud to play in Europe like we did on Thursday.

“Everyone can lose a game, but after a defeat, we have to restart again with the same passion and attitude because we will have to win many more games.”

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