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Brighton boss Roberto De Zerbi rates Forest clash as biggest game of the season

The Seagulls have nine matches left as they chase a European place.

Ed Elliot
Tuesday 25 April 2023 18:18 BST
Brighton and Hove Albion manager Roberto De Zerbi comforts Solly March after missing a penalty in the shootout following the Emirates FA Cup semi-final match at Wembley Stadium, London. Picture date: Sunday April 23, 2023.
Brighton and Hove Albion manager Roberto De Zerbi comforts Solly March after missing a penalty in the shootout following the Emirates FA Cup semi-final match at Wembley Stadium, London. Picture date: Sunday April 23, 2023. (PA Wire)

Roberto De Zerbi believes Brighton’s trip to Nottingham Forest is their most important match of the season.

Albion travel to the City Ground bidding to resume their push for Europe following an agonising FA Cup semi-final loss to Manchester United.

Wednesday evening’s clash with relegation-threatened Forest marks the start of nine Premier League games in just under five weeks for the eighth-placed Seagulls.

De Zerbi is determined to make history by bringing continental football to Sussex and help ease the pain of Sunday’s penalty shoot-out loss at Wembley.

“We are still disappointed for the result,” the Brighton boss said of the 7-6 spot-kick defeat.

“We played a fantastic game. We gave our best and we lost the game.

“We have to be stronger, we have to play tomorrow with the same passion, with the same attitude, with the same quality because we have another nine games, very important for us.

“We can change the history of the club, we can change the history of ourselves and we have a big, big, big motivation to achieve it.

“To accept better the last result, we have a big opportunity to achieve the target in the Premier League.

“I think tomorrow is the most important game in our season. We have to restart in our way, in our style. And winning tomorrow for us is a great result.”

De Zerbi is hopeful Danny Welbeck will be involved after he went off injured against United, while he revealed 18-year-old Argentinian midfielder Facundo Buonanotte will make his full debut.

Evan Ferguson will once again be assessed after missing the trip to Wembley with an ankle issue sustained in the 2-1 win at Chelsea the previous weekend.

De Zerbi is unwilling to take risks with the striker, who has signed a new long-term contract until 2028.

The Republic of Ireland international was already tied to Albion until 2026, having signed his first professional deal on his 18th birthday in October.

He has scored nine times in all competitions this season, including four in the Premier League and also got a first senior goal for Ireland in last month’s friendly against Latvia.

The terms of the extension are understood to reward Ferguson’s recent progress and De Zerbi believes Brighton is the best place for the teenager to develop amid reported interest from rival Premier League clubs.

“It’s very important news,” the coach said of the contract. “He can improve a lot with us.

“In Brighton, there are the right conditions for the young players and he’s still 18. We have to not forget that.

“He’s playing very well. With the Man United (game), it was bad for us without him because he has different qualities, he can give us different solutions in the last 20, 30 metres.

“I don’t want to take any risks with him. We have another nine games and maybe he can be important for the last eight, if there is some risk (against Forest).”

Following confirmation of Ferguson’s new contract, De Zerbi added on the club’s website: “The aim is to help him become one of the strongest strikers in Europe.”

Winger Solly March is expected to retain his starting place after missing the decisive penalty at the national stadium.

“Today we restarted training and the feeling is good for the players,” said De Zerbi.

“For Solly, it can happen. In the penalty, you can score and you can make some mistake and there isn’t a problem.

“He has to be proud. We love him, we support him, especially when we lose and when we make some mistakes. Strong people are when you lose and you restart stronger.”

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