Brighton boss Graham Potter has hailed Tariq Lamptey as a “dream” to manage ahead of the player’s first return to former club Chelsea.
England Under-21 full-back Lamptey has established himself as one of the Premier League’s top young talents since joining Albion from the Blues just under two years ago.
The 21-year-old burst onto the scene with the Seagulls at the end of the prolonged 2019-20 campaign but missed last season’s trip to Stamford Bridge during a nine-month injury nightmare.
Wednesday evening’s visit to familiar surroundings comes exactly two years on from Lamptey’s only top-flight outing for the reigning European champions.
“He’s had such a long time out and he’s done really well in a lot of the games,” said Potter.
“It’s not quite so easy to get a right-back to attack the backline like he does.
“He’s still growing and growing and developing as a player and we’re delighted with him.
“Since he’s been here, he’s been great, everybody loves him here at the club. He’s a great guy, a great lad, does his best, he’s a bit of a dream really as a player.”
Lamptey, who suffered a hamstring injury at Fulham last December, only returned to Premier League action in October and has started six of Brighton’s last seven matches.
Having come through Chelsea’s academy, his maiden top-flight appearance for the London club came as a substitute in a 2-1 win at Arsenal on December 29, 2019 under former Blues boss Frank Lampard.
He enjoyed two further cameos in the FA Cup the following month before being allowed to depart for the Amex Stadium for an initial fee of around £3million.
Brighton head to the capital buoyed by ending an 11-match winless run in the league with Boxing Day’s 2-0 success over Brentford.
Despite the lengthy barren streak, a series of draws means only the top three of Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea have lost fewer games than the Seagulls.
“It hasn’t been all doom and gloom but when you haven’t won for as a long as we have (before Brentford) then there is always a narrative there that you have to deal with and I’m pleased we’ve got that off our back,” said Potter.
“We have to start again, that’s how the league is. We’re facing another challenge, it’s a busy, busy period.
“You have to be at your best to get anything at these type of places but the boys will be in good spirits after three points and we’ll give it our best.”
Title contenders Chelsea made a strong start to the current campaign but have dropped 11 points in their last nine games amid complaints from manager Thomas Tuchel about the busy December fixture list.
The third-placed Blues, who sit six points behind leaders Manchester City, returned to winning ways by coming from behind to win 3-1 at Aston Villa on Sunday.
While victory at Villa Park was inspired by record signing Romelu Lukaku, Potter is wary of Tuchel’s team possessing threats across the field.
“It’s not just one player, Chelsea are the champions of Europe, so they’ve got fantastic players all over the pitch,” he said.
“Great organisation from Thomas Tuchel and his staff and they’re a fantastic team and they’re pushing for the Premier League title.
“Whenever you play the best, you always learn about yourself, you always learn about your team, it’s a huge challenge so we’re looking forward to that.”