Brighton chief executive Paul Barber admits facing Roma in the Europa League Round of 16 will be ‘tough’ and insists the club are confident of keeping Roberto De Zerbi in 2024-25.

The Seagulls have been drawn with Roma in the Europa League Round of 16. The first leg will be played at the Stadio Olimpico on March 7, while the decider will be in England the following week, on March 14.

Speaking to BBC Radio Sussex, Brighton director Paul Barber said: “Sitting and looking at some of the names that were in the pot, whether it was Milan or Leverkusen and some of the bigger European clubs, thankfully some of them we couldn’t draw in that round.

“It’s fantastic to have another big game to go to and a big city to visit. For our fans who have already been to Amsterdam, Athens and Marseille, it’s another big tick on their journey around Europe.

“We know it’s going to be a tough game; in the last 16 of the Europa League, there aren’t going to be any easy draws. This is a game everybody is really looking forward to.”

Barber also spoke about the future of Italian coach De Zerbi who has been linked with a move elsewhere at the end of the season. The ex-Sassuolo coach is among the targets of Liverpool, Bayern Munich and Barcelona, according to several reputable sources.

“We want Roberto to stay as long as possible because he’s doing a great job,” insisted the Brighton director.

“It’s not rocket science to work out that the better someone does in a job, the more they’re going to be linked with other jobs and potentially at bigger clubs that are playing in even higher-level competitions than us.

“But when we’re operating in the top six or seven of the Premier League, when we’re in the last 16 of the Europa League, when we’re still in the FA Cup – we’re operating at the highest levels of the game, so we’re confident we’ve got an attractive package here to want to work with and stay with us.

“We’ve got to shed off this constant thing of ‘we’re a feeder club for the bigger clubs, whether it is players, coaches or staff’. We’re actually doing OK. We’re still humble, we’re still very cognisant of where we’ve come from and the journey we’re still on, but we’ve also got a lot of good things going here. I’m confident that means a lot of good people want to come here and also stay here.”

De Zerbi has a €13m clause included in his Brighton contract which is set to expire in June 2026.

The 44-year-old coach was appointed by Brighton in September 2022 and has won 35 of his 74 games in charge of the Premier League side.

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