(Photo credit: Samantha Madar/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin / USA TODAY NETWORK)
The managers may be the biggest stars when Manchester City host Brighton Hove Albion on Saturday.
City's Pep Guardiola is long regarded as one of the best in the world. And he's been consistently heaping praise on Brighton's Roberto De Zerbi, viewed as one of the globe's most promising young managing prospects.
De Zerbi already is in his fourth top-flight role after two previous posts in the Serie A and one with Ukrainian giants Shaktar Donetsk.
Since his appointment last season following the departure of Graham Potter to join Chelsea, De Zerbi has built on Potter's work with the Seagulls (5-1-2, 17 points). De Zerbi guided them to their first-ever European qualification.
Their last meeting with City (6-2-0, 18 points), a 1-1 draw on the South Coast last season, led Guardiola to assert De Zerbi could be his successor with the three-time league champion, according to a report from the Telegraph.
More recently, Guardiola has remarked that De Zerbi has turned historically modest Brighton into a big club.
"Pep is the best coach in the world. He's a reference not only for me but for all coaches in the world and I'm happy when I hear him speak about me," De Zerbi said Friday. "It's an honor but we are not a big team yet. We have passion and we need to show a lot this season."
The next step toward becoming a big club may be selling fewer of their players to traditional powers in the prime of their careers. The Seagulls made one move in that direction this week, extending Japanese winger Kaoru Mitoma's contract through the end of the 2026-27 campaign.
Mitoma has three goals and three assists in the league and also assisted a goal in Brighton's rally from two down in a 2-2 Europa League draw at Marseille on Oct. 5.
He's been a part of a proactive tactical approach that is largely the reason for Guardiola's admiration.
"I like to watch (De Zerbi's) team play and it's not a surprise the success his side has, even when they lose 6-1 to Aston Villa it doesn't matter, he plays his own style," Guardiola said. "It doesn't matter. It will be one of the toughest tests we have and we will try to go for it."
City will see midfielder Rodri return from a three-match domestic ban for a red card incurred in a 2-0 victory over Nottingham Forest.
City lost all three matches, falling to Wolverhampton Wanderers and Arsenal in the league and Newcastle United in the league cup.
Reigning PL Golden Boot winner Erling Haaland will try to build on his eight goals this campaign after scoring twice for Norway over the international break.
--Field Level Media