Fresh from reaching a first Champions League final for 11 years, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp described Sunday’s visit to Chelsea as “another Champions League semi-final” with their participation in next season’s competition still uncertain.
Victory in any of Liverpool’s three remaining games of the season at Stamford Bridge, home to Brighton on the final day of the Premier League season or against the might of Real Madrid in the Champions League final will secure qualification.
But for Klopp’s peace of mind and to rest a tiring squad with a growing injury list, getting the job done by securing at least a point this weekend is the ideal scenario. “Do we have the widest squad in world football in the moment? No, we don’t have it,” said Klopp.
“That this group go to the final is exceptional. We get all the knocks over the season, all the injuries in the wrong moments and we still have to carry on.” Liverpool’s European exploits have undoubtedly hampered what seemed a comfortable path to a top-four finish just a few weeks ago.
Three draws in their past four league outings with Everton, West Brom and Stoke as Klopp prioritised Champions League progress have allowed fifth-placed Chelsea to close to within six points of the Anfield club.
The Londoners also have three games remaining to Liverpool’s two, meaning if Antonio Conte’s deposed champions win their remaining fixtures they will, at worst, finish level on points with the Champions League finalists.
However, Liverpool’s far superior goal difference means just a point on Sunday or victory against Brighton should suffice. “It’s not like we can say now we are qualified for the Champions League.
Chelsea at the weekend is an unbelievably important game for us,” added Klopp. “We recover tomorrow and then we go to Chelsea and they have again the knife between the teeth and will fight for everything.”
As Liverpool have stumbled, a late-season renaissance has kept Chelsea’s challenge alive with four straight wins also taking them to the FA Cup final, where they will face Manchester United.
Tottenham split Liverpool and Chelsea in the table but have an easier run-in against West Brom, Newcastle and Leicester to try and secure Champions League football for a third consecutive season.
Harry Kane was on target in Monday’s 2-0 win over Watford to take his tally for the season to 38 and the Spurs striker still harbours hopes of chasing down the four goals he trails Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah by to win a third straight Premier League golden boot.
“Every striker in every country wants to win the golden boot. I want to win at everything, whether it’s the golden boot or every game,” said Kane. Victory for Spurs at The Hawthorns would send West Brom down to the Championship despite a brave battle to avoid the drop in recent weeks.
Despite taking eight points from their past four games, The Baggies remain five points adrift of safety and even victory might not be enough to prevent them being relegated this weekend if other results go against them. -AFP