Brighton ‘excited to spoil the party’ for Manchester City, says Shane Duffy

• Duffy rejects calls from fellow Evertonians to ‘let City through’
• Defender urges team to build on narrow FA Cup semi-final loss

Shane Duffy will resist calls from his fellow Evertonians to “wave Manchester City through” on Sunday and has instead urged Brighton to replicate their obstinate showing against City in the FA Cup semi-final.

The Brighton defender graduated through the youth academy at Everton and counts himself a fan but knows he could effectively play a part in Liverpool winning a first league title since 1990 by helping to blunt City. Brighton conceded early in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley last month but resisted admirably thereafter. Now free of concerns over their top-flight status, they can even seek to be slightly more ambitious in their approach to unsettle Pep Guardiola’s side at the Amex Stadium.

“When you play them it’s about having to deal with constant pressure upon pressure, they come at you from everywhere, and it’s such a difficult game,” said Duffy, who has been voted Brighton’s player of the year.

“All the players are excited to spoil the party. I’ve had a few Everton fans texting me, telling me to let them through but I’m professional. I’m not at Everton any more. I’m at Brighton and this is my club now.

“We can’t really get sucked into what favours we do for some people and not for others. I’m sure Crystal Palace fans didn’t want their own team to win against Cardiff last weekend [and confirm Brighton’s survival in the process] but we’re footballers. We have a job to do.

“They have world-class players used to handling the pressure and, in truth, if anyone had offered them the chance to beat Brighton to win the league at the start of the season, they’d have taken it. But we want to beat one of the best teams in the world and do this club proud. That would give us a big buzz.

With the 38th and final round of matches left to play in the Premier League season, the unthinkable prospect of an extra 39th outing remains on the table.

The sensible permutations are simple. A win for Manchester City and the trophy will continue to adorn sky blue ribbons for another year. Any mistake, and Jurgen Klopp’s side can grab a first title in 29 years. Guardiola will be expecting a routine win away at Brighton and Klopp will equally anticipate three points against Wolves at Anfield, but what about that elusive 39th match?

The 2018-2019 Premier League handbook states that in the case that the title "cannot be determined because two or more clubs are equal on points, goal difference and goals scored, the clubs concerned shall play off one or more deciding league matches on neutral grounds, the format, timing and venue of which shall be determined by the Board."

For everything to be equal on Sunday evening Manchester City will need to lose 4-0 at the Amex coupled with a 4-4 draw at Anfield. Both teams would finish on 95 points, with a goal difference of +65, and 91 goals scored.

There is a precedent for this absurdly fantastical turn of events. Sort of. Guardiola hasn’t been immune to a hammering as City boss, overseeing the club’s 4-0 defeat to Everton in January 2017, while a trip back to the winter of 1983 would find an FA Cup occasion that did, in fact, see Brighton demolish City by a scoreline of 4-0.

For Liverpool, meanwhile, the mere mention of “4-4” conjures up memories of a Premier League classic in which the Rafa Benitez-led Reds were on the receiving end of Andrei Arshavin’s brief dalliance with genius.

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“We did quite well against them in the semi-final, and even in the first game in the Premier League [a 2-0 City win at the Amex in August 2017] we felt we were in it.

“If we can play like we did in the second half at Wembley then you never know. We’re going to have to defend very well again and be hard to break down.

“It’s 90 minutes’ concentration, similar to the Tottenham game [which was lost on 88 minutes]. It’s going to be a lot of defending, blocked shots and saves from the goalkeeper. Hopefully we can take our chances this time and give our own fans a day to remember.”

Brighton, whose captain, Bruno, will make his final competitive appearance on Sunday after announcing his retirement at the age of 38, are without a league win since mid-March but were much improved when drawing at Arsenal last Sunday once the fears of relegation had receded.

“I don’t think too many people expect us to get a result,” Chris Hughton said. “But there is no doubt we are going into this game with a better feeling than two weeks ago when we were in a very difficult period and hadn’t secured Premier League status.”

The manager added: “That takes a bit of pressure off players. We showed that at Arsenal. We will definitely have to show that again to have any chance on Sunday and we’ll have to be committed. Our supporters know how difficult it’ll be but they’ll want to see commitment.

“We can win any game, if the elements are in our favour and play well enough. But we’ll also be reliant on them not being at their best. If City play at the level they can, there’s only one winner.

“We played well enough in the semi-final to give us that bit of confidence going into that game, something to grab hold of, and we’ll have to defend well. But we’re capable of doing that.”