Brighton have suffered a blow with the news that Kaoru Mitoma is expected to miss the rest of the season.

The Japan winger, who has lit up the Amex Stadium for much of the last two campaigns, has suffered a back injury which could leave him on the sidelines for three months.

He has already missed a chunk of the season due to an ankle injury and his participation in the Asia Cup.

Mitoma’s prolonged absence will be a big blow in the Seagulls’ quest for a top-six finish in the Premier League, their Europa League campaign – where they play Roma in the last 16 – and their FA Cup challenge, which continues at Wolves on Wednesday.

Boss Roberto De Zerbi said at a press conference to preview the trip to Molineux: “It’s a bad, bad situation. It’s the back injury which kept him out against Everton (at the weekend). It’s an important problem. I think two or three months, (so) finished (for) the season.”

The Seagulls will also be without Evan Ferguson (ankle) and Joel Veltman, while Danny Welbeck is a doubt and Billy Gilmour is suspended.

“Ferguson tomorrow, he can’t play,” De Zerbi added. “Welbeck has a problem and we have to make a check.

“Veltman as well can’t play and the other players injured can’t play.”

Brighton manager Roberto De Zerbi insists the upcoming clash against Manchester City on Saturday afternoon is “bad news” despite the Premier League champions’ recent form.

The Seagulls are aiming to break their recent run of four games in all competitions without a victory, but in their way stand Pep Guardiola’s side.

City have been going through a tough spell themselves, according to their lofty standards, losing three of their last four matches in all competitions, but return to the Etihad Stadium where they have a 100 per cent record so far this season.

Asked whether it is a good time to face the treble winners, De Zerbi admitted the opposite.

He told a press conference: “It is bad news. The big teams are not used to losing three games in the last four, but anyway we have to think for ourselves.

“We have to improve in the quality of the play because we are not playing enough for our level and to compete for our target. We have to understand if we want to win or want to compete we have to play better than the last games.

“Without the quality of the play, we can’t reach any target and we have to be clear.”

Brighton have gone from strength to strength since De Zerbi walked through the door at the Amex Stadium, having delivered European football to the fans for the first time in the club’s history.

Many have compared the Italian’s achievements so far to the boss in the opposite dugout and De Zerbi admits he would love to do what Guardiola has done throughout his managerial career.

“I’m happy when I listen to Pep speak about me. I feel a bit embarrassed, but we are a work in progress,” De Zerbi added.

“I think we are playing well, fighting well but we have to improve, progress and adapt a new challenge and new season.

“Pep is a boss. I would like to do something the same because for many years he won in Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Man City, but the way which he won is different to other coaches. The world will remember him not only for the victory but the way he wins, it is unique.”

Premier League top scorer Erling Haaland has not found the back of the net in his last two league appearances which many fans have not been used to since his arrival into the league.

But De Zerbi is extra wary of Haaland’s threat as he looks to break his mini duck.

He added: “The big strikers when they are not scoring so many goals, they are more angry to score and have a chance to score, but its not only Haaland because Doku is a great player for them, and Alvarez.”

Earlier on Friday, Brighton announced highly-rated winger Kaoru Mitoma had signed a new contract.

The 26-year-old, who arrived in 2021, has been a key player in Brighton’s success and will now stay on the south coast until 2027.

De Zerbi said: “It’s great news. Kaoru is our top player.”

Technical director David Weir added: “Ensuring that a player of Kaoru’s quality will remain with us for the long term is fantastic news. Kaoru adapted to the Premier League last season and has quickly become one of our most important players.”

What the papers say

Kaoru Mitoma is reportedly set to rebuff massive interest to remain at Brighton. According to London World, the 26-year-old winger is eager to sign a new long-term contract with the Seagulls. This comes despite Mitoma believed to be high on the wishlist for both Manchester United and Manchester City.

The Daily Express says Chelsea are growing increasingly unhappy with Nottingham Forest loanee Andrey Santos. Citing The Athletic, the Express reports Chelsea could recall the 19-year-old midfielder from his loan spell if he does not start getting substantial first-team football.

The Evening Standard reports a host of European clubs are tracking New York Red Bulls’ 15-year-old American winger Julian Hall, with Manchester United, Manchester City, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich all believed to be keen on the highly rated prospect.

Social media round-upPlayers to watch

Michael Kayode: Fiorentina are set to offer a new contract to the 19-year-old defender, according to Calcio Mercato.

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg: Gazzetta reports the Denmark midfielder wants to leave Tottenham if he cannot be guaranteed first-team football.

Roberto De Zerbi’s inspired double substitution helped Brighton come from behind to sink Bournemouth 3-1.

The Seagulls trailed to Dominic Solanke’s opportunist strike but went in level at half-time thanks to a Milos Kerkez own goal.

Boss De Zerbi, who had made nine changes to his starting line-up from Thursday’s Europe League defeat by AEK Athens, sent on Ansu Fati and Kaoru Mitoma at half-time.

And the pair had an instant impact, combining for an exquisite goal just 15 seconds into the second half, with Mitoma applying the finishing touch.

Japan winger Mitoma then wrapped up the victory with a late header to leave the Cherries still winless from their first six league matches.

De Zerbi also opted to rotate his goalkeepers, replacing Jason Steele with Bart Verbruggen, but that was a move which backfired after 25 minutes.

The Dutchman hesitated on the edge of the area as he attempted to play the ball out.

Ryan Christie charged down the clearance and the ball rolled to Solanke, who chipped the stranded keeper into an empty net from 20 yards.

Brighton offered precious little for the majority of an uncharacteristically lacklustre first half until three minutes of stoppage time.

A goalmouth scramble saw Lewis Dunk and Adam Webster have efforts cleared off the line before Billy Gilmour swung the ball back into the box.

Kerkez climbed at the near post in a bid to clear the danger, only to glance the ball past goalkeeper Neto and into his own net.

De Zerbi made his double change at the break, but not even the shrewd Italian could have foreseen quite the impact the pair would have.

Bournemouth lost possession from the kick-off and Mitoma played the ball out to Barcelona loanee Fati on the left before continuing his run into the area.

Fati’s ball back in was helped on by Mahmoud Dahoud into the path of Mitoma, who sidefooted it past Neto to cap a glorious Albion move.

With Brighton now in firmly the ascendancy, Dunk headed narrowly wide from a corner before Fati failed to convert a cross from Simon Adingra.

Bournemouth went in search of an equaliser and Antoine Semenyo had a low shot well kept out by Verbruggen.

But Mitoma put Brighton further ahead when he nodded in Pervis Estupinan’s cross with 13 minutes left.

Solanke almost scrambled one back for the Cherries from close range late on but his effort was cleared off the line by Albion skipper Dunk.

Kaoru Mitoma’s superb solo effort and Solly March’s second-half double helped lift Brighton top of the Premier League table after an impressive 4-1 win at Wolves.

Japan midfielder Mitoma’s mesmeric run and finish gave Brighton a slender half-time lead before Roberto De Zerbi’s side put Wolves to the sword with three goals in nine minutes at the start of the second half.

Pervis Estupinan doubled Brighton’s lead within 60 seconds of the restart and two carbon-copy goals from March, both assisted by teenage forward Julio Enciso, sealed the Seagulls’ second-straight win.

Wolves responded through substitute Hwang Hee-chan’s header just after the hour mark, but it was mere consolation for Gary O’Neil’s side, who were emphatically punished for missed first-half chances and lost Matheus Nunes to a late red card.

Mitoma gave Brighton a 15th-minute lead with a brilliant effort, cutting inside 40 yards from goal and beating three Wolves defenders before sliding the ball beyond goalkeeper Jose Sa.

Brighton deserved their lead, but Wolves spent the rest of an end-to-end first half chasing an equaliser.

Fabio Silva was brilliantly denied by Brighton goalkeeper Jason Steele’s out-stretched boot in the 28th minute after the Portuguese forward had ghosted on to Joao Gomes’ deft through-ball.

The home side went close again when Nunes curled a shot off-target following impressive Brazilian Matheus Cunha’s powerful run and Pedro Neto flashed an angled drive just wide.

Brighton continued to threaten on the counter – Mitoma and Paraguayan Enciso were a constant menace – but Wolves passed up another chance just before the break.

Rayan Ait-Nouri found himself clear in front of goal after exchanging passes with Silva, but the Algeria defender blazed over shortly before half-time.

Wolves were made to pay inside 60 seconds of the restart as Brighton extended their lead and then put the game to bed with two more strikes, all within the space of nine minutes.

Estupinan tucked home the visitors’ second, stepping on to Mitoma’s cut-back after Danny Welbeck’s fierce drive had been parried by Sa.

March then slammed home his first as he charged on to Enciso’s lovely weighted ball inside the penalty area to make it 3-0 in the 51st minute and that became 4-0, just four minutes later.

Enciso this time found himself free on the opposite edge of the area and his ball in was turned home again by March to leave Molineux stunned.

Wolves responded just after the hour-mark as Hwang headed home fellow substitute Pablo Sarabia’s corner and they drove gamely forward in a bid to mitigate the damage.

Efforts from Sarabia and Pedro Neto were held by Steele and rebounded off Evan Ferguson respectively, while March was twice denied his hat-trick with goal-bound shots blocked by Toti Gomes and Steele.

Wolves’ misery was complete in stoppage-time when Nunes was sent off for his second yellow card after pushing Estupinan to the ground.

Kaoru Mitoma hopes to cap a fine breakthrough season by helping Brighton make history as he sets his sights on gaining revenge against Manchester United.

The high-flying Seagulls surpassed their Premier League points record by moving on to 52 with Saturday’s 6-0 thrashing of Wolves, which reignited the club’s quest to reach Europe.

Fourth-placed United travel to the south coast just 11 days after inflicting an agonising penalty shoot-out defeat on Albion in the FA Cup semi-final.

Japan winger Mitoma only made his Brighton debut in August but has rapidly enhanced his reputation this term with seven goals and four assists during a string of standout performances.

The 25-year-old, who spent last season on loan at Belgian side Union Saint-Gilloise, is determined to further aid the Seagulls’ push to secure continental qualification for the first time.

“Right now it’s important for the team to finish the season as high up the table as possible and aim for a Champions League or Europa League spot,” he said.

“If we can reach a higher standard playing this brand of football, I think we will be able to bring the fans even more joy.

“I want to make them happy and, in order to do so, we want to make history.”

Brighton edged the recent Wembley meeting with Erik ten Hag’s men but were unable to find a breakthrough before Solly March’s miss proved decisive in a painful 7-6 shoot-out loss.

The eighth-placed Seagulls’ chances of catching United and scraping into the Champions League spots are extremely slim as they sit 11 points adrift, albeit with a game in hand.

Yet a top-five finish remains a distinct possibility going into Albion’s final seven fixtures in a hectic last month of the campaign.

Mitoma, who began the hammering of Wolves on the bench after being rested by boss Roberto De Zerbi, is confident Brighton can complete a league double over United following a 2-1 Old Trafford win on the first weekend of the season.

“It was a disappointing result, a frustrating result, but we have already switched our focus to the league,” he said of the semi-final setback.

“It’s very important that we win this game as they are our direct rivals in the league table. This will be a really big game for both teams.

“They are a team who is always fighting for the title, and the quality of each individual is something that sets them apart from other teams.

“But if we can play to our strengths, we will have a chance to win.”

Head coach De Zerbi could be absent from the Amex Stadium touchline for Thursday evening’s game after cancelling his pre-match press conference on Wednesday due to illness.

Mitoma was handed his maiden top-flight start by the Italian in Albion’s 4-1 victory over Chelsea in late October and believes he is progressing well.

“The coach demands a lot from me, so I’m trying my best to meet them,” he said.

“The way he sets up the team and his tactics are helping my performance, as it suits my style very well.

“He is very specific about what he wants from me in training and in games.

“I think my standard on the ball and off the ball is improving step by step, so I feel that I’m developing under his coaching.”

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