Brighton captain Lewis closed on Dunk injury return, says boss Graham Potter

Brighton boss Graham Potter expects impressive captain Lewis Dunk to return to the Premier League next week.

Ifender Dunk has been out for six weeks with a knee injury and has been sidelined ahead of Friday evening’s match against Crystal Palace.

The England international, who hasn’t played since Albion’s 1-1 draw at West Ham on 1 December, will undergo further evaluation over the weekend.

He may be in contention for Tuesday’s trip to Chelsea but is more likely to be back for a trip to Leicester next weekend.

“He (Palace) won’t be involved in the game, it’s too soon for him, but we hope he starts training with the team, probably Sunday,” Potter said.

“We still need to see how he reacts.

“You see he’s six weeks off, but we need to make sure he’s taking the right steps.

“(He) is not (ready) for Palace, possibly for Chelsea, but possibly for Leicester.”

Midfielders Enoch Mwepu and Yves Bisouma are also unavailable for Patrick Vieira’s visit to the Eagles.

Mwepu will be out for nearly four weeks with a hamstring injury in last weekend’s FA Cup third-round win at West Brom, while Bisouma is in the Africa Cup of Nations.

Mali international Bisouma has 18 months remaining on his Brighton contract and has been linked with other clubs, including an alleged interest from Premier League rivals Aston Villa.

Potter is confident that the player will still be on the South Coast in February.

“Players of this level, and Yves the same, know there is speculation at this time of year, things are in the newspapers, it’s part of them,” Potter said.

“They also know they have to focus on football and take care of everything else.

“I believe (I will be in January). I think Yves is enjoying his football here, but with the transfer window, you never know.

“We have to adapt to anything that we do. You always plan for something you can’t necessarily anticipate, so we’re in a good place, but we’ll see.”

The enforced absence of Mwepu and Bisouma has opened the door for 20-year-old Ecuadorian international Moises Cassado to launch his Albion career.

Caicedo, who signed for Siegel just 12 months ago, was recalled this week from a loan spell at Belgian club Beerschot and will be in Potter’s squad for Palace games while awaiting his Premier League debut.

“He’s played important World Cup qualification games for Bearscott and his country, so he’s had some great experiences,” Potter said.

“Those six months will be invaluable to him and he adds to us.

“He can play quite a few positions in midfield, he’s still young, still learning, but we’re excited about him.”

Ninth-placed Brighton are four points and three places above the Eagles, who have played one game less.

Potter has never tasted victory against Palace as head coach of Albion, recording three draws – including earlier in the season when Neil Maupay’s late equalizer snatched a point at Selhurst Park – and lost twice.

Both defeats took place behind closed doors at Amex Stadium and Potter expects his record to be more positive after Friday’s sell-out match.

“I’m really looking forward to it, it’s exciting,” he said. “Friday night at Amex would be great.

“Two good football teams, so I think it’s going to be a good game.

“Hopefully we can come out on top, but look forward to the atmosphere especially. Had a good one at Selhurst Park, I’m sure Friday night will be the same.”