Tom Burchill assesses the importance of tonight’s Manchester derby and how it may impact Liverpool’s chances of Champions League football next season.
The last few weeks have seen Liverpool finally able to see out games against the lower league sides they have struggled against all season. Results against Stoke and West Brom elevated everyone’s confidence and top four looked more doable than ever. Spirits were high and the end was in sight.
But who better to dampen our spirits than brace-scoring Liverpool reject Christian Benteke?
Liverpool 1-2 Crystal Palace
There is that sickening feeling around Anfield again. It’s that same feeling that Liverpool fans have felt for the last three seasons. The Eagles have flown into Liverpool and for the third time in as many years, they have left with three points.
All of a sudden, finishing inside the top four does not seem like the stroll in the park we were hoping for.
Perhaps that is unfair of me to say. No one thought it was going to be easy with our record against teams outside the top six. In fact, if you had gone into a bookmakers and bet we’d win our last five games I’m sure the returns would have been handsome.
Let’s stop dwelling on the past and look to the not so distant future. Let’s look to the Manchester Derby.
Manchester City ?-? Manchester United
As it stands, Manchester City are two points behind us and Manchester United are three points behind but both have the advantage of two games in hand. So just how will Liverpool fans be hoping that tonight’s fixture pans out?
If Manchester United win then they will draw level with us on points and still have a game in hand. Providing they don’t win by more than one goal then we would still sit above them on goal difference but the pressure would most definitely be on.
This is the worst possible of outcomes but we have to assess how bad it would be. Yes, they would have the opportunity to go three points ahead of us but lest we forget they still have to face Arsenal and Tottenham away in North London. Just three points dropped across those two fixtures would see us remain level but even the idea of fighting it out with them is sickening considering the mediocre season they’ve had.
If the game is a draw then both teams will remain below us in the table. This would look good on paper and slow two teams around us. That way we’d have double the chance of one of them slipping up and paving our way to Europe. Right?
Wrong. In reality, this outcome isn’t as good as it first seemed. Manchester City’s remaining games after the derby are Boro, Palace, Leicester, West Brom and Watford. Unless they’ve taken a few pages out of our book it’s likely they will cruise their way to the end of the season.
What do we want then?
I want to see Manchester City triumph against United in a way we have never seen before. I want United to crawl away from this fixture with 0 points and a broken morale. I want to see Mourinho cry.
A win for Manchester City will see them move into third – one point ahead of us. But I don’t care. Manchester United have a tough run of fixtures made harder by the congestion of Europa league fixtures. If we’re going to the Champions League we are going instead of them.
All in all no outcome tonight will be a definite nail in the coffin for our season but tonight’s game will highlight just how important our remaining games are. That being said what better way to spend your Thursday than seeing your rival lose.
Do us a favour City?