Brighton boss Roberto De Zerbi insists the club must keep wantaway midfielder Moises Caicedo if they are to maintain their bid for a place in Europe.
The sixth-placed Seagulls have two possible routes to the continent after they knocked out holders Liverpool to reach the fifth round of the FA Cup.
De Zerbi has already seen attacker Leandro Trossard leave for Arsenal and Brighton have blocked the Gunners’ attempt to prise Caicedo away.
The Ecuador midfielder missed the 2-1 win over Liverpool after publicly stating his desire to leave, but De Zerbi and Brighton are digging their heels in.
“It’s already difficult for me to be a coach – to be coach and chairman would be too difficult,” said the Italian.
“Caicedo is a very good guy. I understand it when you are 21 and the chance of a big team in Europe. But I would like him to finish the season with us.
“(Chairman) Tony Bloom knows very well my opinion. We lost Trossard and if we also lose Caicedo it’s a problem for us if we want to fight for Europe.
“If we don’t lose Caicedo we are ready to fight.”
Liverpool, back at the scene of the 3-0 thumping a fortnight ago which Jurgen Klopp described as the worst of his managerial career, looked destined for at least a replay after Lewis Dunk’s deflection cancelled out Harvey Elliott’s opener.
But Brighton’s Japan star Koaru Mitoma produced a fabulous piece of improvisation to control the ball and then volley a dramatic stoppage-time winner to leave Klopp wincing again.
“We had the game in mind from a couple of weeks ago which was pretty much the bottom of my time,” said Klopp.
“So this was better, much better. But we still conceded two goals from set-pieces. It doesn’t feel great, obviously. But we have to take it. We have to improve.
“This is really a way you can get knocked out of a cup. We want to make the final step and that is why this defeat is not especially bad in this moment. It didn’t happen but there were still steps in the right direction and we have to go from there.
“We have to improve, body language, a couple of boys have to do much better. But last game here we couldn’t have won. I think today nobody would have been surprised if we had won the game.”