Joao Pedro must deliver for 90 minutes to become ‘top player’ – Roberto de Zerbi

Roberto De Zerbi believes in-form Brighton top scorer Joao Pedro must sustain performances over 90 minutes to take the final step in becoming a “great, great player”.

Brazilian forward Pedro increased his tally for the season to 18 goals in all competitions with a hat-trick during Saturday’s 5-2 FA Cup win at Sheffield United.

The 22-year-old – a £30million summer signing from Watford – opened his Albion account on the first weekend of the campaign in a 4-1 victory at home to Tuesday evening’s Premier League opponents Luton.

“Joao Pedro’s DNA is of a top player,” said Brighton boss De Zerbi.

“The target of Joao is to play better and better and to keep this mentality because now he’s showing a great mentality, a mentality he needs and we need.

“He’s becoming amazing as a striker because his quality to play in ball possession, to play in between the lines, to make assists were important but in terms of goals, he’s improving a lot.

“The last step to become a great, great player is to play 90 minutes in the same way.

“Sometimes he starts the game not pushing off his best and I would like at the beginning of the game until the end of the game the same mentality.”

Pedro is likely to receive a hostile reception from Luton fans due to his Watford connections.

De Zerbi feels Kenilworth Road is one of the most challenging places to go in the top flight.

The relegation-threatened Hatters have beaten Newcastle and drawn with Liverpool on home soil this term, in addition to suffering single-goal defeats to Tottenham, Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea.

“Playing in the Luton stadium is one of the toughest games in the Premier League because they have a great intensity,” said De Zerbi.

“People think Brighton have to win and it’s normal if Brighton win in Luton but in football there are no easy games and if you want to win you have to push until the end.

“Arsenal and Man City, they won a game at the end of the game and I watched both games and they were very, very difficult games for both teams.”

Seventh-placed Brighton have been linked with a move for Leicester midfielder Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall before the transfer window closes.

De Zerbi, who has a close relationship with Foxes boss Enzo Maresca, says Dewsbury-Hall has “great quality” but was tight-lipped on the speculation.

“I don’t know anything about him (personally); I know him as a player,” the Italian said of the 25-year-old.

“He has great quality but it’s not my business speaking about other players, especially because Enzo Maresca is my friend and I want to be correct with him.”

Brighton remain without Joel Veltman, Solly March, Simon Adingra, Kaoru Mitoma, Julio Enciso and Ansu Fati.

Barcelona loanee Fati has returned to training following an injury sustained in November but will not be rushed back into first-team action.

“He’s a risk and he’s important for us in the second part of the season,” said De Zerbi.

“We can’t take any risks in this moment.”