David Martindale insists Livingston’s poor recent form should not detract from their accomplishments over the course of the campaign.

There is a sense of deflation around the Lions at present as they have won only four of their last 17 games in all competitions and missed out on the top six in the cinch Premiership despite having been as high as fourth in January.

But Martindale was keen to point out that if they win their final match away to St Johnstone on Sunday – which could take them up to seventh place – they will equal the points tally of 49 they accrued last term, in what was widely deemed a positive campaign.

“If we win, we finish on the same points tally as last season and we’ve already won as many games (13) as we did last season, but last year was a fantastic season, so it’s about trying to put it all in perspective,” he said.

“We can’t finish any lower than eighth, there’s an opportunity to finish seventh. I’m at peace with all of that. It’s just about trying to pick up three points on Sunday.”

As disappointed as he remains not to have made the top six, Martindale insists Livingston – operating on the lowest budget in the league – deserve credit for not becoming embroiled in a relegation battle.

“We had a decent start, I was really happy with the start,” said the manager, reflecting on the campaign. “We’ve not been at our best probably since January onwards but we’ve still picked up points.

“The main objective is staying in the Premiership and we’ve done it quite comfortably. With the position we got ourselves into around the turn of the year, we’re disappointed we didn’t make the top six.

“But we went into the last game before the split, the same as last year, knowing that if we won we’d have gone into the top six so if we put it into perspective and take the emotion out of it, I’ve got to take my hat off to the players and staff for keeping Livingston in the Premiership.”

Steven MacLean has been handed a three-year contract as St Johnstone manager after leading the Perth side to safety.

The former Saints striker stepped up to replace Callum Davidson on a caretaker basis last month and has only lost one of his five cinch Premiership games in charge.

Steve Brown has rewarded him with an extended contract just before he steps down as chairman.

MacLean, whose side host Livingston in their final league game on Sunday, said: “I’m absolutely thrilled to be given this opportunity.

“I met with the chairman (on Friday) and we sorted things out very quickly. I thank him and the board for giving me this exciting opportunity.

“St Johnstone has a very special place in my heart. This club has been a massive part of my life and means so much to me.

“We have secured our SPFL Premiership status and that was my immediate goal.

“But the work for next season starts now and I will be giving my all to be a successful St Johnstone manager.”

Brown said: “I am delighted to get Steven secured on a three-year contract.

“I’ve known him for many years and I always had him down as a leader.

“As interim manager, he hit his targets very quickly and it became abundantly clear that he was the man I wanted to lead us on a permanent basis.

“He totally gets St Johnstone from top to bottom and has an excellent rapport with our supporters. We all believe good times are ahead for our club.”

Ross County manager Malky Mackay is adamant the clarity of his relegation-threatened team’s situation this weekend means there will be no lingering hangover from the concession of a last-gasp equaliser against St Johnstone on Wednesday.

The Staggies fought back from 2-0 down to lead Saints 3-2 in the closing stages, but the Perth side hit back at the death to equalise.

Fortunately for County, the late goal did not significantly alter their overall predicament, as even if they had held on to win, their inferior goal difference means they would still require a victory away to 10th-placed Kilmarnock on Sunday to leapfrog their hosts and get out of the relegation play-off spot.

As it stands, the 11th-placed Staggies are two points behind Killie and know that they need a win at Rugby Park to secure their cinch Premiership survival and consign their opponents to a play-off against Championship promotion hopefuls Partick.

“I don’t think anything changed with winning and not winning on Wednesday,” said Mackay.

“For us to come out of the bottom two spots, we need to go down to Kilmarnock and win, and even if we’d won on Wednesday we’d have needed to do that anyway.

“We go there knowing exactly what we need to do.”

County still have the lingering threat of being dragged back into bottom place and automatically relegated but that would require an unlikely eight-goal swing in favour of Dundee United, who are away to in-form Motherwell.

Brentford boss Thomas Frank has described Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola as the best coach in the modern era and an inspiration ahead of Sunday’s game at the Gtech Community Stadium.

City’s recent Premier League title win was their fifth under Guardiola’s stewardship and they will look to build on that in the FA Cup and Champions League finals next month.

Frank, whose side won at City in November, talked up treble-chasing Guardiola’s impact on the game which he admitted has inspired him during his managerial career.

“He’s top class, after the game he said it was well deserved (Brentford’s win). I only come across him when he shows class all the way through and I look forward to congratulating him on winning the Premier League,” Frank said.

“Many people have spoken about Pep Guardiola for good reasons. I think he is in the modern era, the best coach, most innovative, he’s developed the game massively.

“I studied him a lot when he was at Barcelona and followed him closely, I’ve been inspired by his work and he’s definitely an inspiration.”

Brentford will have to deal with record-breaking striker Erling Haaland, who has netted 36 Premier League goals in his debut campaign.

Frank lauded the 22-year-old for his impact on English football since his transfer from Borussia Dortmund.

“Haaland added a different dimension to City, he is so good in the box,” Frank added.

“If you see the disallowed goal against Brighton he makes four or five movements before the cross comes in, it’s very rare for me to see this from a striker.

“He’s always on the move which is so difficult to defend against, he is also always focussed and believes the ball will come in for every chance.

“A top finisher who can use the left foot, right foot and header but I think the biggest thing he’s given them is the pace in behind.

“I think it’s very impressive the amount of goals he’s scored which has destroyed the Premier League and there is probably even more to come.

“I know he broke the record this year and he’ll probably break it again next year.”

Frank highlighted the quality in City’s squad as he tried to predict which line-up Guardiola will pick.

He said: “They have 22 unbelievable players so who is the best? (Ruben) Dias or (Aymeric) Laporte? I don’t know that, I am not sure even Pep knows that, that’s two top players.

“Who’s on the wing? (Jack) Grealish, (Phil) Foden, (Riyad) Mahrez or (Bernardo) Silva? I myself wouldn’t know who to pick so they put world-class players out there and we need to top perform, our fans need to top perform and we need to finish off the season in style.”

Ryan Mason has trust in the key decision-makers at Tottenham to get the big calls right this summer.

Spurs’ acting head coach Mason will take his squad to relegation-threatened Leeds on the final day in what is set to be his last fixture in charge.

Eighth-placed Tottenham remain without a permanent manager or managing director of football and could miss out on Europe for the first time since the 2009-10 campaign unless they better Aston Villa’s result and match Brentford’s on Sunday.

Crunch decisions are required by chairman Daniel Levy and the board, with a promise already made to supporters over the style Spurs will try to play next season.

Last Saturday’s programme notes from Levy pledged the team will go back to “football you will love to come and watch” after the recent pragmatism and counter-attacking of Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte.

Mason feels a stable brand of football will help, and he said: “We’ve probably had two or three different styles of football in the last two or three years and I don’t think that is good for any squad of players or for fans.

“When you lose people, lose coaches, lose players, lose members of staff, the impact is huge if you keep going from different things.

“Like I say, going forward it really is important and we see it in the Premier League, we see it across the leagues, I want people to know who Tottenham are, know what a Tottenham team looks like and certainly know what a Tottenham player looks like.

“This is just how I view the situation as it is. Obviously there will be loads of conversations in the summer about going forward.

“There is a lot of people here who really care and want the club to get back to where we want, where we expect and where we hope to be.

“Them conversations and decisions I am sure will be made in the summer. I trust the people making them decisions.”

Quizzed about how the managerial search could impact Spurs’ transfer business, Mason admitted the club need a new man in place before they can go after targets.

“There is work because we have a big squad, a lot of players on loan and decisions to make,” he said.

“The most important work is probably away from the transfer window right now because you need a manager in place, you need commitment, you need an idea to know where you go.

“You can’t do transfer business without a manager because it might not fit his idea. At the moment I believe we need an idea of what we want to do, who we want to be and stick to it. Recruit people for that and ultimately recruit players for that.”

There remains uncertainty over the future of Harry Kane, who is approaching the final year of his Spurs contract.

Mason would not be drawn on what next for the Tottenham forward but insisted it is imperative every club has a long-term plans in place.

He added: “For any player, manager, member of staff at this football club, when one leaves it’s important to have a succession plan in place.

“So, when people do leave, the next one comes in and the impact isn’t so big. That’s not just speaking about Harry. That’s speaking about other players.

“For me, it’s really important that there’s an identity in all departments.

“If you want to be successful on the pitch then everyone working for the organisation within the football club has to be on board with what we are and who we are.

“I hope going forward that’s definitely the case.”

Fulham boss Marco Silva insists Aleksandar Mitrovic has nothing to prove on his Old Trafford return following an FA Cup meltdown there in March.

Mitrovic was handed an eight-game ban after grabbing referee Chris Kavanagh during Fulham’s FA Cup quarter-final defeat to Manchester United.

The Serbia striker has scored three goals in two games since returning from suspension – taking his total for the season in all competitions to 15 – and ends his best top-flight campaign on Sunday back at Old Trafford.

Asked if Mitrovic will be especially fired up against United, Silva said: “No, not at all. Mitro doesn’t need this type of incentive.

“I think he showed in 25 minutes against Southampton that it doesn’t matter the club that he is going to play against, (and) last week against Palace.

“He is Mitro, he doesn’t need to play against certain types of teams or in certain situations to be more motivated.”

Fulham will end the campaign 10th whatever happens at United – their first top-half Premier League finish since coming ninth in 2012 – but the Cottagers have a powerful incentive to finish the season on a high.

Victory will set a new Premier League points record for the club, a draw will match the 53 points achieved in 2008-09 under Roy Hodgson.

Silva said: “It’s a brilliant season for us, no doubts about it. For everything, not just because about the position we have to be proud of.

“The position we are going to finish, the way we achieve it. The way we keep improving the individual and collective of our squad. It’s been really good.

“We knew before this season started that it would be crucial for this club to remain in Premier League.

“Credit to the players because of the right mindset, they are always ready to learn and work.

“They bought our ideas and philosophy as well to the way we are going to play football.”

United secured a top-four finish and Champions League football next season by beating Chelsea 4-1 on Thursday.

Erik ten Hag’s squad will expect a rousing Old Trafford send-off on Sunday before next weekend’s FA Cup final date with neighbours Manchester City.

“They already played one final (Carabao Cup) and they are going to play another one,” said Silva, whose side have suffered late league and cup defeats to United this season.

“For a club like Man United it is really important that they are fighting for some titles. They changed some things (this season), they signed good players – two or three that made a huge impact in their squad as well.

“I think they’ve been showing this season that they’re a massive club.

“The individual quality they have, in my opinion, is clearly in the best teams in this league.

“They have players in the attack line and midfield line who can decide the game in one second if you switch off.”

Nottingham Forest boss Steve Cooper is at a loss as to how Roy Hodgson has been able to navigate a near 50-year career in management.

Cooper comes up against the former England manager on Sunday as Forest close their Premier League season with a trip to Crystal Palace.

The pair were colleagues together at the Football Association as Cooper was in charge of the England Under-16s and 17s while Hodgson was the senior team boss.

And Cooper is full of admiration for his 75-year-old counterpart.

He said: “We have got to play Crystal Palace. We really want to end well. It’s not under the scrutiny of last week, (but) we should want to win every game that we play and Palace are going really well.

“What a job Roy Hodgson has done, an incredible man and an incredible career. Having done management for a couple of years to think of the longevity he has had is just something I have got so much admiration for.

“I don’t know how he has done it. I have got a huge amount of respect for him.”

Forest travel to Selhurst Park knowing their top-flight status is secure following last weekend’s win over Arsenal.

The City Ground club prepared for this season in haphazard fashion with a flurry of signings and Cooper says Forest need a “productive” off-season.

“What we do know now from this season is what it takes to compete at this level. We’ve got to maximise the opportunity we’ve given ourselves by staying in the league to improve,” Cooper said.

“June is a really important month for that.

“For me, as the days have gone by, it’s turned into motivation about how we have to improve. After Sunday, we need to have a really productive off-season.

“The players will rest and a lot of the staff around the players will rest, and rightly so, they need to do that. But we need to be busy in the off-season in really trying to continue to improve the club to what we want it to be, and that’s being able to really operate at a high standard in the Premier League.”

Sam Allardyce said Leeds chairman Andrea Radrizzani was “hugely frustrated and disappointed” as the club stand on the brink of relegation.

The Premier League concludes on Sunday and Leeds must beat Tottenham at Elland Road while hoping relegation rivals Everton and Leicester both drop points in their final games.

Majority shareholder Radrizzani boldly declared last summer that another relegation battle was “impossible” after Leeds had survived on the final day with victory at Brentford.

But the odds of pulling off another great escape are even bigger this time round and Allardyce said: “He’s hugely frustrated and disappointed.

“He didn’t expect at the start of the season that the club would be in this position.

“He didn’t expect he would have to employ three managers to get out of this position. He’s hugely frustrated.

“The only way you sort that out is at the end of the season, have a look at the whole structure of the football club, and do whatever needs to be done.

“But in the meantime the only focus is one big game, one massive game for the players and for us all in controlling the destiny of Leeds, only by winning and hoping that other people lose.

“It’s not what we wanted, but it’s the position we’re in.”

Radrizzani is reported to be part of a consortium poised to complete a takeover of Italian club Sampdoria, in partnership with Paris St Germain owners Qatari Sports Investments.

The Italian, who turned to Allardyce with four games left in a last-ditch bid to retain Leeds’ top-flight status, is expected to expedite the sale of his remaining shares to 49ers Enterprises.

The financial arm of NFL franchise the San Francisco 49ers increased its stake in the club to 44 per cent at the end of 2021 and has an option to own 100 per cent by January next year.

Allardyce has taken one point from his three games in charge since becoming Leeds’ third manager of the season.

Marcelo Bielsa’s successor Jesse Marsch was sacked in February and his replacement Javi Gracia lasted 11 league games before he too was dismissed.

Allardyce, open to talks about staying in the role whatever Sunday’s outcome, said: “We’ll try and take advantage of the fact we’ve still got a small window of opportunity open.

“On the balance of where we are, there are two completely different avenues where the club goes down.

“You can pencil things in, but the only way you can put it in ink is whether you’re in the Premier League or you’re not.”

Allardyce invited in Leeds great Eddie Gray, plus former captains Gordon Strachan and Gary McAllister for inspirational talks with his players this week.

The former England boss added: “They had very successful times here and I think on the mentality side it’s about improving our mentality to deliver.

“So somebody speaking a different voice about football, about what they did at this club, how much they love this club, I think is really important.”

Eddie Howe has vowed to adopt a siege mentality once again as Newcastle prepare for a first Champions League campaign in 20 years.

The Magpies have dragged themselves from the thick of a Premier League relegation fight when the club’s new owners took control in October 2021 to Europe’s top table in the space of a remarkable 19 months.

They have done so with the help of a £250million-plus investment, provided in large part by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, which holds an 80 per cent stake, and the source of that wealth has prompted concerted criticism, with human rights campaign group Amnesty International in particular voicing concerns over “sportswashing”.

That focus is only likely to increase as they strengthen further before taking to the European stage, but head coach Howe has insisted his mission will not be derailed as a result.

He said: “We’ve been used to that from day one, to be honest. There’s been that feeling that popularity-wise, I don’t think we’re high up on people’s lists for various reasons.

“You accept that, I’ve got no issue with that and almost we’ve tried to use that for our benefit and for our gain, really.

“I’ve said we’re not here to be popular, we don’t care, really, about outside opinion. We very much care about inside opinion, we care about what the people of Newcastle think of us and what our supporters think.

“We’ve tried to act in the right way and make them proud, that’s been our biggest focus.”

Newcastle will bring down the curtain on a season which has delivered far more than they might have expected back in August at Chelsea on Sunday, where they will face a club which has spent around £600million since Todd Boehly completed his takeover last summer, but will end the campaign in the bottom half of the table.

That tends to suggest that money alone is not the key to success, and the way Howe has blended his new arrivals with the players he inherited and has since improved markedly has been equally, if not more important.

Asked if he regretted the focus on finance, the 45-year-old said: “I don’t really take it personally as in my achievement because it’s not really my achievement, it’s the achievement of the players who have committed to this season and what they’ve given. That would hurt me for them.

“I think the players deserve huge credit individually for some of the seasons that they’ve delivered and collectively for what they’ve done.

“I’ve said many times sitting here, it’s not about money. Money has played a part, it’s been a contributing factor, of course it has.

“But we’ve seen teams up and down the Premier League spend similar amounts of money and not have the success and not be as consistent as we have.”

Ruben Selles hopes relegated Southampton can go out on a high when they bid farewell to the Premier League against Liverpool on Sunday.

A wretched campaign full of poor decisions meant Saints knew their 11-year stay in the Premier League was over with two games to spare.

Southampton are on a winless 12-match run and have lost their last five on the bounce, with Swansea boss Russell Martin lined up as manager as they prepare for life in the Championship.

Selles hopes his last match in charge ends with a positive result on Sunday, which could also see homegrown skipper James Ward-Prowse make an emotional farewell.

“I think you need to choose in which mode you are every day,” Selles said of the atmosphere at St Mary’s on Sunday. “I think the fans need to do the same.

“I know, I understand the disappointment of the season but, as you say, it can be the sun shining and then a big opponent, last game in St Mary’s in the Premier League this year.

“We will not have for at least one more year and I think it’s a good opportunity to go on a journey together and try to make a good football match.

“I thank our fans for being supportive in one of the hardest seasons that they had in the last 12 years.

“Hopefully we can have a good environment on Sunday and then we can make something together.”

Perhaps boosting Saints’ chance of a shock is the fact Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool know they cannot reach the Champions League and will finish fifth after Manchester United beat Chelsea on Thursday.

“It’s always a tricky question because I know Jurgen (Klopp) said that he will make some changes in the line-up probably,” he said.

“It’s a situation with less pressure than if they were playing from the Champions League, of course.

“But sometimes less pressure means more freedom and sometimes more freedom (helps), and they can go in both directions, so it’s just a different game.”

The match could see academy products Theo Walcott and Mohamed Elyounoussi play their last games for Saints given their contracts expire in the summer.

Che Adams, Mohammed Salisu, Armel Bella-Kotchap and Juan Larios are out through injury, while ineffective January signing Paul Onuachu is a doubt with a back problem.

But there could be some positives to hold onto, with teenagers Kamari Doyle and Dom Ballard pushing for game time after making their league debuts last weekend.

Talented full-back Tino Livramento could also get some time off the bench after ending his 392-day injury lay-off when coming on for 20 minutes at Brighton.

“Tino will not play from the start due to his time restriction,” Selles said.

“He can play at least the same amount of minutes as he did against Brighton.”

Frank Lampard promised he would be back at Chelsea as a supporter after his tenure as interim manager ends on Sunday.

His side host Newcastle looking to give Lampard the first home win of his second spell in charge, and help the club’s record goalscorer sign off on a relative high after losing eight of his 10 games.

The former midfielder, who won three Premier League titles and the Champions League during his 13 years as a player in west London, did not return to Stamford Bridge after he was sacked as manager in January 2021 until April of this year to witness the team’s goalless draw against Liverpool.

That came two days after ex-boss Graham Potter was sacked 31 games into a five-year contract, and within days Lampard had been installed as temporary boss while the club searched for a permanent successor.

The 44-year-old insisted that it was only circumstances that had kept him away – the period coincided with the Covid-19 pandemic and his 12 months spent managing Everton – and that his visit for the Liverpool game, which he watched from the box of co-owner Todd Boehly, had been planned for weeks.

It was later reported that Lampard had been touted as a possible interim candidate by club officials several weeks earlier when Potter was seriously on the ropes after a run of poor results.

The game against Newcastle will round off a campaign that cannot come soon enough for fans after enduring comfortably the team’s worst season in 30 years.

Nevertheless, Lampard was hopeful of giving them something positive to take into the summer as he prepared to make his third exit from the club.

“I don’t want this to sound corny but I don’t feel like it is a goodbye,” said Lampard.

“I appreciate it, it will be end of season and end of my time back but normally when you leave a club you don’t have a hurrah as a manager. You are in one day out the next and that’s fine.

“This is the corny part, I will never feel like I am saying goodbye to the fans. My career as a player and as a coach first time around and this period and it is there.

“I live close enough to the stadium and I will be back at Chelsea many times and when you take on a managerial career it doesn’t mean you will be at a club you had 13 years at as a player forever.

“I’m quite calm about it and not too nostalgic about it but certainly do appreciate the fans’ support on Sunday. More than anything I would love to give them a performance to take away for the summer and feel a bit more positive about for sure.”

Lampard could again turn to Chelsea’s young prospects against Newcastle with a number of first-team players unavailable.

Reece James, N’Golo Kante and Benoit Badiashile have all played their final game of the campaign while Lampard was doubtful whether Mason Mount will be fit to make what could be a farewell appearance at Stamford Bridge.

Raheem Sterling is also a doubt after injuring a hamstring in the defeat to Manchester City.

The loss of James has been a particular blow for Lampard during his brief stay, with the England defender having been the standout performer this season as the team has struggled.

He was ruled out of the rest of the campaign after injuring a thigh in the Champions League home defeat to Real Madrid.

“(Reece) came out (to train on Wednesday) and went back in but because he had a little bit of an awareness but we hope the scan will show there is no real damage,” said Lampard. “It was just a little reminder that it is a bit too early to be out.”

Pep Guardiola admits his thoughts have already turned to the first of Manchester City’s two upcoming finals.

Treble-chasing City face arch-rivals Manchester United in the FA Cup final at Wembley next week before heading to Istanbul to take on Inter Milan in the Champions League showpiece seven days later.

The newly-crowned champions must first wrap up their Premier League campaign at Brentford on Sunday but, with little riding on the outcome at the Gtech Community Stadium, Guardiola admits he is planning ahead.

The Inter game may remain at the back of the mind for now, but the United clash is starting to loom large in the City manager’s thoughts.

Guardiola said: “I would say I saw a little bit of Inter last week but not this week. I am more focused on United right now.

“I saw their game against Chelsea. I was really impressed and I have started to review a little bit what they did to us in the game at Old Trafford.

“As in the past, we have to be careful. I would be careful anyway but after Thursday and their games recently, we are going to prepare the best we can.”

Guardiola has a balancing act to play this weekend. He may wish to rest some players ahead of the finals but he feels it is also important that others maintain their sharpness.

Jack Grealish, Aymeric Laporte, Ruben Dias and Manuel Akanji were not risked at Brighton in midweek having not been deemed fully fit but big guns Erling Haaland, Kevin De Bruyne, Rodri and Bernardo Silva all featured.

Guardiola said: “Brighton helped us to maintain the level and hopefully Brentford will help us to maintain this rhythm to play the finals.

“We need that but it is important to arrive in the last week before the finals with people fit and ready.

“The Brentford game will be completely different to Brighton. I know it is meaningless in terms of the points but, in terms of sustaining the demanding effort, they will push us. It will be so difficult.”

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp admits he is struggling to process having nothing to play for on the final day of the season.

A year on from missing out on an unprecedented quadruple his side head to already-relegated Southampton knowing they will finish fifth irrespective of results on Sunday.

That has already started to come into his thoughts for his team selection, after confirming it “makes sense” to make changes, but he is confident his side will finish on a high.

“I am not used to games on the last matchday when everything is sorted. I am used to games when everything is at stake but we play this game to win the game,” he said.

“This is completely new to me. We are fifth, they are relegated. Usually (at the end of the season) we have to win, it is a final, but I want to do the right thing and didn’t decide yet.

“I want to line up the right team but to the outside world, I want to line up a team that is ready for the game, for the 110, 112km they have to run, all the challenges.

“We will not take risks with players, that makes no sense.”

Mohamed Salah was the first player to express his devastation at not qualifying for the Champions League when Manchester United’s win over Chelsea on Thursday consigned Liverpool to the Europa League.

Klopp admits in the immediate aftermath of that realisation it is difficult to put a positive spin on things.

The club face losing around £50million in Champions League revenue – a “big problem” according to Klopp – but he is confident missing out will provide added motivation.

“It has to. We all think like that. This is not the season we want. We know that for a while,” he added.

“I really think this was not a season we will talk about. Yes we failed to give the people more to enjoy but we had our moments.

“It would have been a ‘normal’ season if we ended up fourth, not great but still qualification for the Champions League, but that is the big disappointment.

“I am here for seven and a half years – it is a really long time – and that things always go in the right direction is not likely, there are dips. Usually after three years you change manager.

“It is a really good thing I am here for that long but a challenge as well as you have to invent yourself new, that is what we started now, and that is super-exciting.

“In a difficult year I felt the unity between us and the supporters, it is so important people really appreciated it.

“This season was not great and from a financial point of view that is actually the only problem but a big problem in football.

“But we have European nights next year but instead of Tuesday or Wednesday it’s a Thursday. Who cares?”

Roberto De Zerbi insists Europa League-bound Brighton will not be in holiday mode during their Premier League finale at Aston Villa.

Albion’s visit to Villa Park had been earmarked as a potentially pivotal contest in the battle for European football.

But the Seagulls travel to the West Midlands relatively pressure free having already cemented sixth position following Wednesday evening’s thrilling 1-1 draw at home to champions Manchester City.

Seventh-placed Villa need to win on Sunday to extinguish any prospect of Tottenham or Brentford leapfrogging them into the Europa Conference League spot.

Despite the match being a dead rubber for Brighton, head coach De Zerbi is determined to maintain standards and register a 19th victory of a record-breaking campaign.

“We have to respect our club, our fans, ourself in every situation,” said the Italian.

“In training sessions, in friendly games, in Premier League, FA Cup, Carabao Cup, we have to play seriously, all the time.

“We will prepare our best for the next game and we leave to Birmingham to win and to play in our way.

“I spoke with the players, we have to arrive ready and the holiday has not started.”

Villa were one of only five visiting teams to win at the Amex Stadium this term thanks to a 2-1 success in Brighton’s final game before the World Cup.

That November victory came in Unai Emery’s third top-flight match in charge of the club following the sacking of Steven Gerrard.

Former Arsenal boss Emery has transformed Villa’s season after arriving with his side sitting just above the relegation zone.

“Aston Villa deserve to achieve Europe,” said De Zerbi.

“Emery has changed the season for Aston Villa. They have big players. They have a clear style of play and it will be a tough game.”

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