Roberto De Zerbi believes Brighton’s away match against Nottingham Forest is the most important match of the season.
Albion travel to the City Ground to resume their race for Europe after a coveted FA Cup semi-final defeat by Manchester United.
Wednesday night’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 helping ease the pain of Sunday’s penalty shoot-out defeat at Wembley.
“We’re still disappointed with the result,” said the Brighton manager of the 7-6 defeat from the penalty spot.
“We played a fantastic match. We gave it our all and 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 which are 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 better accept the latest result, we have a great opportunity to achieve the goal in the Premier League.
“I think tomorrow is the most important match of our season. We have to start again in our own way, with our style. And winning tomorrow is a great result for us.”
De Zerbi hopes Danny Welbeck will be brought in after he went out injured against United, while he revealed 18-year-old Argentine midfielder Facundo Buonanotte will be making his full debut.
Evan Ferguson will be re-evaluated after missing the trip to Wembley with an ankle problem sustained in the 2-1 win at Chelsea the previous weekend.
De Zerbi doesn’t want to take any risks with the striker, who is ready to sign a new long-term contract at the Amex Stadium.
The Republic of Ireland international is already linked to Albion until 2026, having signed his first professional contract on his 18th birthday in October.
The terms of the extension are intended to reward Ferguson’s recent progress and De Zerbi believes Brighton is the best place for the teenager to grow up, given interest from rival Premier League clubs.
“It’s very important news,” said the coach of the contract. “He can improve a lot with us.
“In Brighton there are the right conditions for young players and he is still 18 years old. We must not forget this.
“He’s playing very well. With Manchester United (game) it went badly 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 chances with him. We have nine more games and maybe it can be important for the last eight if there’s any risk (against Forest).
Winger Solly March is expected to keep his starting berth after missing the decisive penalty at the national stadium.
“Today we resumed training and the sensations are good for the players,” said De Zerbi.
“For Solly, it can happen. In the penalty you can score and you can make mistakes and that’s no problem.
“He must 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 start again stronger.”
Brighton later announced striker Ferguson had signed a new long-term contract until 2028.
The 18-year-old, who joined the Seagulls from Irish club Bohemians in January 2021, has scored nine goals in all competitions this season, including four in the Premier League.
Ferguson also scored his first senior goal for the Republic of Ireland in last month’s friendly against Latvia.
De Zerbi said on the club’s website: “The extension of Evan’s contract is great news.
“He trains and plays like a senior player with many years of experience and has become an important member of the team. The goal is to help him become one of the strongest strikers in Europe.”