‘Not a top team’ - Brighton manager makes awkward observation before Newcastle United clash

Newcastle United are set to take on Brighton at St James’ Park this weekend

Roberto De Zerbi declared his “love” for Brighton to simmer speculation regarding his future.

The Seagulls have faced similar problems as Newcastle United - where they travel this weekend - throughout 2023-24. European football for the first time in the club's history has placed strain on the squad and, as a result, they have slipped down the table.

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A surprise 1-0 win over Aston Villa was their first in six matches but repeating last season’s heroics is an impossibility. Even the Conference League appears off the cards, with Brighton sitting 11th - seven points outside the top seven.

They would need a major swing in their final three games and face Newcastle, Manchester United and Chelsea. Eddie Howe’s side welcome a battered and bruised Brighton to St James’ Park on Saturday looking for revenge.

September’s 3-1 defeat at the Amex was one of Newcastle’s worst performances this season and set the tone for a poor record on the road. Speaking at an open forum with supporters, De Zerbi - linked with Liverpool and Bayern Munich - confirmed his adulation for Brighton but conceded they are “not” a top team.

"I would like to stay in Brighton because I love my players," he said. “I love this city. I love my club and my fans. I think they know what we need. They know what we need to improve this season.

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"We can't forget we are Brighton. We are not a top team. We have to accept our policy at the club because we love working in Brighton but, if we can compete for a higher level, we have to compete without problem.

"I don't like it when people are beaten before they start. We have to keep our motivation, our ambition high, and then we will see what we are able to do."

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