Liverpool will soon need to pick between the Champions League and Premier League. Trying for both appears near-impossible.
What is more valuable – attacking the Champions League this season or getting qualification for the next? It’s a tough question.
On the face of it, opting for the second is silly. You’re in the competition to win it, thus obviously trying to win it is more valuable. Hoping to qualify so that you can compete for the position you’re already in doesn’t make much sense.
But there are two things at Liverpool that change matters.
The first is that they almost certainly have a better chance of winning it next year than this year. They’ll have a deeper squad, with some lessons learned.
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They won’t be trying to win it with Ozan Kabak and Ben Davies as their centre-halves, for one. They may even play their best midfielders in midfield.
The other factor is what it means for this summer. Liverpool will want to strengthen and, potentially, replace some stars as they move closer to their 30s.
The guaranteed Champions League money – and the image it shows to targets – would make a huge difference.
On the other hand, winning the Champions League would mean far more money and a far greater image. It would also grant qualification for next year’s.
Usually, of course, Liverpool would try for both. They’d want to easily qualify for the top 4 while challenging for the Champions League trophy.
But that won’t happen this year.
Injuries have ravaged Liverpool’s squad this year. We might not have even seen the full effect of that, though.
That will come once the Reds are playing Champions League knockout fixtures back-to-back with huge Premier League games. It’s how things go towards the end of the season.
The 2-0 win ‘away’ at RB Leipzig puts Liverpool in position to reach the quarter-finals. They’ll be in with a shot at the trophy, then.
But they’re also going to be in a fierce fight for the Champions League spots, given how far their Premier League form has dropped off.
Liverpool do not have the squad depth to cover both competitions at their toughest. Nor can certain stars manage that.
Jordan Henderson and Fabinho pick up injuries quite frequently. Liverpool won’t be able to play both in every game. They’ll have to pick and choose.
The Reds will almost certainly have to pick a competition to focus on, then. Their best players must be reserved for the games that matter most.
Which games those are is entirely a matter of perspective. We don’t yet know which Jurgen Klopp shares.
On the one hand, winning the Champions League is tougher. On the other, Liverpool’s Premier League form is worse.
It’s a near-impossible choice to make, with no simple answer. But the Reds are hurtling towards a decision over the next months.