Liverpool’s next five games are monumental in their bid to secure Champions League football for next season and Jürgen Klopp admits it’s all he and his players think about.
In what was a very nervy game at the Hawthorns, Liverpool continued their resurgence in form with a hard-fought 1-0 win over the Baggies. A first half headered goal from the in-form Roberto Firmino proved to be the difference on the day.
Thanks to back-to-back wins, Jürgen Klopp’s side is third in the Premier League with six points separating them and fifth-placed Manchester United, who have two games in hand. That being said, the Mancunians have Manchester City and Arsenal to play in their next five games and Europa League football to contend with.
The biggest thing in Liverpool’s favour right now, considering their ridiculous injury list, is their lack of commitments. Klopp and his coaching staff only need to plan for five games for the rest of the season whereas Arsenal, City and United are all in another competition.
While there is no denying that Liverpool have done well to recover and get over their terrible pre-season form, Klopp is under no impression that the job is anywhere over.
“We have to carry on,” he told Liverpoolfc.com after the final whistle on Sunday. “And that’s no problem – it’s actually the only thing we think about.
“That everybody is asking me about [the situation] is no problem, I don’t mind. Because the league is like the league is, [the other teams] have three, or maybe next week after the [FA Cup] semi-finals, four games less.
“If Manchester United go to the [Europa League semi-final], they have to play two [more] games. If they go to the Europa League final, it could be really close for them to find the right days to play.
“But that’s nothing we have influence on. We don’t play them anymore, so that means we have to do our job as good as possible. And it couldn’t have been better [against West Brom].”
The latest Premier League odds by William Hill indicate that Liverpool are favourites to finish in the top four and this is largely due to the Reds’ relatively easy run of fixtures.
And the right players are stepping up at just the right time too.
Roberto Firmino is showing why Jürgen Klopp prefers him as his number nine over a more natural forward. With a stunning strike against Stoke City and an opportunistic poach against West Brom, the number 11 is proving his worth for the Reds.
That, plus Emre Can is showing why Liverpool need to extend his contract after reports indicated the German could be on his way out after negotiations over a new deal stalled. Not to mention Dejan Lovren and Jöel Matip make a solid centre-defensive partnership.
Liverpool’s ability to finish in the top four and guarantee Champions League football next season has serious ramifications for the type of player that will be signed in the summer.
High-profile targets like Naby Keita, Virgil Van Dijk and Kalidou Koulibaly will all demand Champions League football as a pre-requisite in order to relocate.
It’s time for Liverpool to return to the big time and that can only happen if Klopp and his players are successful in their next five games.
And as Klopp said himself, it’s all anyone can think of.