Roberto De Zerbi said that he would hug Moises Caicedo and Robert Sanchez with pleasure before Brighton and Hove Albion play Chelsea in their Carabao Cup tie tomorrow evening (Wednesday 26 September).
Midfielder Caicedo and goalkeeper Sanchez joined the Blues for a combined £140 million last month, with defender Levi Colwill also returning to Stamford Bridge after a season-long loan at Brighton.
The trio could all feature as Chelsea host Brighton for their third round League Cup tie.
This afternoon, De Zerbi said: “I am looking forward to seeing them and always happy to meet my former players. Now they don’t play with us but I will hug them with pleasure.”
De Zerbi’s side will fancy their chances of progressing to the fourth round. Brighton are an impressive third in the Premier League table after five wins from their opening six fixtures, with Chelsea languishing in the bottom half.
Mauricio Pochettino has overseen Chelsea’s worst start to a top-flight season in 45 years including a 1-0 home defeat against Aston Villa at the weekend.
Brighton, who were forced to come from behind in their win over south coast rivals Bournemouth, also have the better recent head-to-head record against Chelsea after taking wins, home and away, in the league last season.
But De Zerbi said: “We have big respect for Pochettino and Chelsea. They have a great squad but I don’t know about the problems they have.
“For us, it will be a very tough game. We have to think about ourselves, to organise and play better than we did in the last game and to have a clear idea because in the first half (against Bournemouth) it was not very clear.”
De Zerbi said that he would take a late decision on Evan Ferguson after withdrawing the teenager at half-time against Bournemouth while Pascal Gross will be absent again.
The Italian added: “I have not decided about Evan yet. I would like him to play at his best. He wasn’t in his best physical condition on Sunday but he wanted to play.
“We need the best condition of the players if we want to compete every three days. We have to change the XI and take the best decisions game by game.”