'The most important secret' - Roberto De Zerbi makes big admission ahead of Ajax test
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The Italian has made a huge impression in English football and helped Albion to achieve European qualification for the first time in club history.
Their reward was a mouth-watering group stage draw – with Ajax, Marseille and AEK Athens joining Brighton in Group B.
A win over Ajax at the Johan Cruyff Arena on Thursday (November 9) will put the Seagulls in a strong position to qualify for the knock-out rounds.
"It’s our honour to play in Amsterdam arena,” De Zerbi told reporters on Wednesday.
"We have big respect for the history of Ajax. They teach everyone how to play football, especially for our players because we have three Dutch players [Joel Veltman, Jan Paul Van Hecke and Bart Verbruggen]. I never see Veltman on the wall and I’m sorry for him.
“We are not big team. We have to keep our style and spirit.
"Our young team crucial to reach our target and result. You have to play and compete to show our quality of players. When the game starts our only focus is on the result.”
De Zerbi said he learned a lot as a manger from Ajax over the years.
"I respect a lot the style of Ajax,” he said. “It is clear for every coach in every part of the world.
"They are used to changing a lot of players year by year. They are very good with young players. Then they sell but they reach the right level. The history of this club is clear.”
De Zerbi said Brighton are ‘working to reach the right level’ to ‘compete in these important competitions’.
He added: “It’s not so easy because we have a lot of injuries. We are a young team with not a lot a big history in this competition.
"We are adapting well. We are playing better the last three games.
"I am positive because I love my players. I know they are good guys, good people.
"We want to change the result. We know we are not winning in the Premier League but we are fighting.
“We are a young team, we have young players and a young coach and first of all we have to keep our style because our style and our spirit have been crucial to reach the European target and to reach the result.
"I think it is maybe the most important secret. You have to play to compete thinking to keep our style. To show the quality of players.”
De Zerbi said he is not thinking about the knock-out rounds, stressing that the focus is on each individual group game.
He explained: “In the first game [defeat against Athens] we played well but not with same spirit and personality. It was normal.
"In Marseille [2-2 draw] we didn’t play the first 25 minutes. Then we were Brighton for 65 minutes.
"In the last game against Ajax [2-0 win] we dominated the game and deserved to win the game. We could score more goals. I expect to watch the same Brighton I watched in first game with Ajax.
“To qualify we have to win tomorrow and the focus is on tomorrow. Then it’s on Marseille and Athens.”