Liverpool are just three points away from finishing in the top four, but qualifying for the Champions League really is win or bust for Jurgen Klopp’s men. After being in the top four for most of the season to miss out now on the final day of the campaign would be a bitter pill to swallow for everyone connected to Liverpool.
At the turn of the year, Liverpool looked the most likely challengers to Chelsea in the title race but six defeats against teams who, at the time, were in the bottom half of the table have cost Liverpool dear this season. Standing in their way for a top four finish are already-relegated Middlesbrough and Liverpool will be desperate to avoid any slip ups against a side they would be expected to beat.
Top four regulars Arsenal are like the horse who has done course and distance and are chasing down Liverpool on the rails with just one point separating the two sides in the battle to qualify for the Champions League. Liverpool’s resounding win over West Ham last weekend has put their destiny firmly in their own hands and it is an opportunity they must grab if they want to keep pace with their rivals in the ever-demanding battle to finish in the top four.
Liverpool’s title challenge faded away because of the lack of depth in Klopp’s squad and qualification for the Champions League will have a large bearing on the players Liverpool can attract this summer. By being able to offer Champions League football Liverpool will have the edge over some of their rivals when silly season begins in the summer transfer window which could prove vital come next season.
All Liverpool’s big rivals in the Premier League will be busy reshaping their squads for next season and Liverpool’s American owners Fenway Sports Group are set to splash the cash this summer and hand Klopp the club’s largest ever budget, but the windfall is however, dependent on Liverpool securing Champions League football next season.
Liverpool have progressed in the Premier League in Klopp’s first full season in charge picking up 13 points more than last season, but it will count for nothing if they miss out again on the riches of the Champions League. Liverpool have only qualified for the Champions League once since their run of dining with Europe’s elite on a regular basis was brought to an end in 2009-10 campaign and it has been a long way back for the Merseysiders.
Liverpool, who are England’s most successful club in the European Cup, are desperate to mix it again with Europe’s elite and playing against the world’s best players will help Liverpool keep hold of their best players and attract their own top targets and in the process maintain their improvement under Klopp.
The stakes are high for Liverpool this weekend and they will only have themselves to blame if they fall at the final hurdle as they should have had their top four berth secured a long time ago given some of their results in the final weeks of the campaign. Liverpool have failed to win any of their last three home games against Bournemouth, Crystal Palace, Southampton meaning the meeting with Middlesbrough is anything but easy given Liverpool lack of home comforts.
After a rollercoaster season, where Liverpool were in real contention for the title before a poor run of form in January and February, a top four finish and a return to the Champions League would be satisfactory for Liverpool fans as they would have taken that when the first ball of the season was kicked back in August.