Brighton & Hove Albion enjoyed a transformative spell under the tutelage of Roberto De Zerbi in the 2022/23 campaign.
The Italian tactician took over in September and steered the club toward a historic season finale, which will see them participate in the Europa League for the first time in their 122-year history.
Brighton have risen rapidly through the Premier League ranks, establishing themselves as a top-half team during an ongoing six-year run in the English top flight.
Having secured a spot in the top six last season, there are question marks about whether they can cement their place as a European club.
But they will be optimistic about their chances, especially with De Zerbi at the helm.
Here is our Brighton season preview for 2023/24. You can also check out our detailed Premier League season previews for all 20 teams.
De Zerbi’s side take on Premier League newcomers Luton Town on the opening weekend. They then travel to Wolverhampton Wanderers before entertaining West Ham United at the Amex Stadium later in August.
Brighton’s inaugural Europa League campaign will commence in September, sandwiched between games against Newcastle United (H), Manchester United (A), Bournemouth (H), and Aston Villa (A).
Brighton fans will be made to wait until late December for their first derby clash, facing Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park two days before Christmas, with the return fixture scheduled for February 3.
Roberto De Zerbi’s side face a tough May run-in with a trip to Newcastle in their penultimate game before closing out the season at home to Man United.
De Zerbi’s work at Brighton has bolstered his reputation as one of the most tactically brilliant managers in European football.
It could be argued that his predecessor Graham Potter laid the groundwork for his success, but the Italian’s entertaining brand of football caught the eye last season.
His approach helped Brighton secure their first-ever European qualification, and the former Sassuolo man will fancy his chances of leading the Seagulls to silverware.
Despite being one of the best teams in the Premier League, touting Brighton as major contenders for the Europa League title would be far-fetched, given their non-existent European experience.
However, with De Zerbi leading the way and a talented squad at his disposal, they should be able to progress far into the tournament, with the round of 16 being their potential limit.
Alexis Mac Allister is the only notable exit from Brighton thus far, with the Argentine midfielder sealing a bargain move to Liverpool.
Brighton received just £35 million for his services, but the Seagulls would have demanded significantly more if he did not have a termination clause in his contract.
The World Cup winner was a vital piece to Brighton’s puzzle last season, helping the club secure European qualification with 12 goals and three assists in 40 appearances.
Mac Allister is versatile enough to play multiple roles in the middle of the park and could prove to be an excellent addition for the Reds.
His former teammate Moises Caicedo could be the next high-profile departure from the Amex this summer, with Chelsea and Brighton engaged in a transfer tug-of-war over the talented 21-year-old defensive midfielder.
Brighton are driving a hard bargain for his signature by slapping a £100m price tag on their star player – a figure Chelsea are unwilling to match.
While both clubs continue their transfer rigmarole, Brighton have reinforced their squad this summer with five new recruits linking up with De Zerbi’s squad.
Mahmoud Dahoud, James Milner and highly-rated goalkeeper Bart Verbruggen have joined.
Brighton have also signed Brazilian centre-back Igor Julio after seeing their pursuit of Chelsea’s highly sought-after defender Levi Colwill fall through.
However, Joao Pedro has been Brighton’s most expensive signing thus far, with the Brazilian striker costing the Seagulls £30m.
The 21-year-old was Watford’s top scorer last season, registering 11 goals and four assists in the Championship.
He will hope to replicate that form in the top flight, having managed just three goals in his previous Premier League spell.
There could be more signings at Brighton this summer, especially if they eventually sell Caicedo to Chelsea, who remain determined to capture his signature despite seeing four bids rejected.
Jason Steele and Verbruggen are set to go head-to-head for a place in the starting line-up.
However, Steele’s exceptional passing ability was crucial to De Zerbi’s style of play last term, making him likely to retain his position as the first-choice goalkeeper in the manager’s preferred 4-2-3-1 set-up.
With Colwill no longer on Brighton’s roster, Lewis Dunk and Adam Webster should continue their partnership at the heart of the defence, although Igor will provide strong competition.
Pervis Estupinan and the versatile Pascal Gross are expected to occupy full-back roles.
Caicedo is poised to exit the club this summer, so Billy Gilmour and Dahoud should anchor the midfield, with Kaoru Mitoma, Julio Enciso, and Solly March playing ahead of them.
Brighton’s striking department is now well-stocked following Pedro’s arrival, although the Brazilian can also feature as a wide forward when needed.
Danny Welbeck and the highly-rated Evan Ferguson are also capable of leading the line, with both players notching six goals apiece last season.
Although Ferguson had a better goals-per-game ratio and has been touted as the next big thing in European football, we expect Welbeck to get the nod over the youngster due to his experience and technical skills.
Here is our prediction for Brighton’s strongest starting XI next season:
4-2-3-1: Steele; Estupinan, Dunk, Webster, Gross; Gilmour, Dahoud; Mitoma, Enciso, March; Welbeck.
It would be unfair to single out one man who outshined the rest last season, but Mitoma was one of the standout performers for De Zerbi’s side.
The Japanese forward dazzled the Premier League with his exceptional dribbling skills and proved too hot for defenders to handle.
He notched ten goals and eight assists across all competitions and will be expected to build on his solid debut campaign in the English top flight.
Ferguson is also one to watch out for. The 18-year-old netted six times in 19 Premier League games last season and could prove a vital player for Brighton this year.
With European football now on their schedule, Brighton will have their hands full this season. The Seagulls will back themselves to go far in the competition, but winning it may be out of their reach.
Additionally, maintaining their position in the top six could be a challenge for De Zerbi’s team and losing Caicedo this summer would make things even more complicated.
However, Brighton have enough talent on their side to navigate the upcoming season, but their best chance of securing their Continental spot may lie in an unexpected European triumph.
Predicted finish: 9th
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