Matthew Sinton assesses whether or not Liverpool can finish the job at hand and finish in the top four to qualify for next season’s Champions league.
Liverpool’s 1-0 win against Watford on Monday night, courtesy of an Emre Can wonder goal, put us in a very promising position to achieve that Champions League place that would be so important for our signings and progress in the next few years.
Without our frustrating inconsistency since the turn of the year we could have it wrapped up already, but where’s the fun in that? We don’t do anything the easy way.
Southampton travels to Anfield for the next of our final three fixtures this Sunday. It’s safe to say we’ve not had an easy time with the Saints so far this season – our 0-0 draw at St Mary’s took us off top spot back in November and 1-0 losses in both legs saw us knocked out of the League Cup back in January.
This time round, though, Southampton sit in 9th place on 11 points. Much like Watford the other night, they’re safe and have little to play for. I’m not saying it’ll be an easy game by any means, but it’s certainly a more promising situation.
The next game will be an away trip to the Olympic Stadium to face West Ham. After a disappointing season for the Hammers following European qualification last season, news has come in that Slaven Bilic’s future at the club relies on their last two home games, Tottenham and Liverpool.
So while they’re all but safe from relegation, their players will have some extra incentive to perform (especially since I can’t see them getting anything against Spurs at the moment).
We should be wary of this, but it’s another game we should be winning comfortably if we want to secure Champions League football. They did hold us to a 2-2 draw at Anfield earlier this season in what turned out to be Loris Karius’ last start in the league, but I don’t think it was really an accurate reflection of how the game went and West Ham have since lost Dimitri Payet, who scored in that game.
Now onto the final league game of the season: Middlesbrough at home. No easier fixture right? (For most teams, at least).
They are almost certain to be relegated by the time they travel to Anfield, so that could work one of two ways: they’re down and out, which we take full advantage of, or they have nothing to lose so they start to play a bit of football 37 games too late.
We need to be careful if the latter happens, but they are one of the worst attacking teams I’ve ever seen in the Premier League – not too bad defensively though, credit where it’s due – and a club who wants to play in the best competition in world football should have no problems. It doesn’t always work that way in football, of course, but it should.
We’ve done so well to get into this position in the league with the squad we have this season and it would be ridiculous to let a top four spot go at this stage. Being a Liverpool fan means I’m never fully confident until it’s official, but I do think we can get over the line.