Brighton and Hove Albion captain Lewis Dunk was missing from the matchday squad to face Greek champions AEK Athens in the club’s first ever Europa League game on Thursday night.
Manager Roberto De Zerbi explained in the pre-match interview that the defender has picked up an injury. The Italian said: “Dunk couldn’t play after the game with Manchester [United], he felt a muscular problem.”
It was visible that Brighton missed the 31-year-old at the back as they really struggled to cope with AEK’s attacking threat throughout the game. They went on to lose the game 2-3.
Dunk has been ever-present at the back for the Seagulls for many years and is the leader of the group, but the impact of his absence on the whole team surprised many pundits and viewers.
Striker Evan Ferguson also missed the European tie as he was ill. De Zerbi also said: “Unfortunately they can’t play but we have a good squad and we can play with other players.
“Maybe these players have different technical characteristics, different qualities, but in terms of level they are very close,” the coach added.
He was also asked about the impact of the injuries and how the replacements fared, to which he replied: “Igor had a great game, he was one of the best players on the pitch and Ansu [Fati] the same. Ansu played very well.
“Ferguson has different qualities, he is the scorer in our squad and Dunk is the captain, the leader. Important on the pitch and off the pitch.”
De Zerbi then finally provided a very positive update as he went on to say: “Yes they are injured, but they will play Sunday.”
The Italian manager confirmed that both Dunk and Ferguson will be fit enough to feature in the Seagull’s next Premier League game against AFC Bournemouth on Sunday. This will surely be a huge relief for the Brighton fans who were especially worried at the news of Dunk’s absence.
No further reports about his injury came out and all we know is it was a ‘muscular problem.’ But clearly, the injury was a minor niggle and the defender’s exclusion from the squad on Thursday may well have been precautionary.
It is not clear whether Dunk will only feature on the bench against the Cherries or go straight into the starting eleven at the weekend.