Daily Mail

Brighton are daring to dream of Euro nights

- KATHRYN BATTE at the Amex Stadium

AseNse of belief is starting to creep into the south coast. Maybe, just maybe, Brighton can make history this season. three points off fifth- placed Newcastle with a game in-hand, the seagulls are on course to qualify for europe and are one win away from an FA Cup semi-final.

Brighton is a well-run club on and off the pitch and would be many neutrals’ choice to finish in the european places. It is hard not to admire what tony Bloom and Paul Barber have built here.

Brighton have a knack of recruiting talented players that go on to fetch big transfer fees but they are able to cope and manage those departures by replacing them with even better signings.

they also know when not to sell. they could have accepted Arsenal’s big-money bid for Moises Caicedo in January but held firm, despite his desire to leave.

they could afford to lose Leandro trossard, they had the attacking players to fill in. With Caicedo, it was a different story. He was crucial to their europa League hopes. the midfielder signed a new deal last week and was one of many impressive performers in the thrashing of West Ham.

Most managers in Roberto De Zerbi’s position would play down their chances of finishing in the top six but it is refreshing to hear a coach say ‘why not?’

‘If you see the table we can fight,’ he said. ‘We are playing very well and we can fight and we can try.

‘I am enjoying working with these players because they have my same passion to improve. I think we can achieve our target because we are strong and we are serious.’

De Zerbi’s players are allowing themselves to dream too.

Joel Veltman, scorer of the second goal, said: ‘Of course you look at the table and see, like, that spurs lost, Newcastle lost. We need to stay humble because we have some big teams behind us. We will try to win every game and then we’ll see what happens.’

De Zerbi is usually a ball of energy on the sidelines but was forced to watch saturday’s game from the stands after he was given a onematch touchline ban for comments he had made to referee Darren england in the tunnel and his criticism of english match- officials after his side’s 1-0 defeat by Fulham.

Assistant Andrea Maldera more than made up for De Zerbi’s absence and was in regular contact with the manager.

‘It was very different,’ De Zerbi said. ‘I prefer to stay on the bench but I have to say thanks and give congratula­tions to my staff because they worked like me. It’s not only the head coach, but all the staff are important.’

De Zerbi has built on the foundation­s laid by predecesso­r Graham Potter and there will be a sense of irony if his Chelsea side miss out on europe. But Brighton are arguably more potent under De Zerbi — they enjoy more possession and take more risks.

‘I watched a lot of the games under Potter, I like him, his style. Nothing more,’ De Zerbi said when asked what he has changed.

‘I brought my idea. I didn’t want to make comparison­s to Potter because I couldn’t be Potter, I could be myself, bring my idea and my vision of football.’

that vision has put Brighton on the path towards history. BRIGHTON (4-2-3-1): Steele 6.5; Lamptey 6 (Veltman 16min, 7), Webster 6.5, Dunk 6.5, Estupinan 7 (Welbeck 76); Caicedo 7, Gross 7; MARCH 8.5 (Buonanotte 75), Mac Allister 8, Mitoma 8 (Enciso 83); Ferguson 7 (Sarmiento 83). Booked: None. Scorers: Mac Allister 18 (pen), Veltman 52, Mitoma 69, Welbeck 89. Manager: Roberto De Zerbi 8.

WEST HAM (4-3-3): Areola 6.5; Johnson 4, Aguerd 5, Ogbonna 5 (Zouma 69, 5), Emerson 4; Soucek 4 (Downes 75, 5), Rice 5, Paqueta 4 (Lanzini 75, 5); Bowen 5, Ings 5, Benrahma 5 (Fornals 46, 5).

Booked: Soucek, Bowen, Rice.

Manager: David Moyes 4.

Referee: Stuart Attwell 7.

Attendance: 31,523.

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 ?? ACTION IMAGES ?? Jubilant: Brighton players celebrate Joel Veltman’s goal
ACTION IMAGES Jubilant: Brighton players celebrate Joel Veltman’s goal
 ?? PA ?? Suffering: West Ham’s David Moyes
PA Suffering: West Ham’s David Moyes

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