Former Liverpool and Newcastle United manager Rafael Benitez has given his views on which of his old teams will finish in the top four this season.
The Reds and the Magpies are in a three-way fight with Manchester United for the last two Champions League spots. With three and two games to play respectively, Newcastle are just a point ahead of Liverpool.
Having been clear favourites a short time ago, Eddie Howe’s team are now feeling the pressure. But speaking to Football Daily this morning, Benitez claimed that Newcastle will see off the Reds’ threat and finish ahead of them.
“Everybody knows that to be in the Champions League, to be in Europe means a lot of money coming in and then you can sign better players because they have the extra motivation to play in Europe,” said the Spaniard. “So, it’s massive for both. I think obviously now Newcastle United have the advantage, but you never know.
“Liverpool are doing really well now, but I think Newcastle United have the belief, they have the intensity, the organisation and the balance that is necessary to get some points and to stay there.”
All to play for in top four race
Heading into the final sprint of the season, plenty probably share Rafa’s view here. And that’s fair enough. The smart money should still be on Newcastle, owing to their game in hand.
But all Liverpool can do is put the pressure on them. Thanks to a brilliant run of seven wins on the bounce, Jurgen Klopp’s side are doing just that.
Newcastle haven’t been in this position before and funny things can happen at the end of long seasons. They wouldn’t be the first team to panic and allow emotion to get the better of them at this stage. Liverpool know that all too well.
If that is to happen, then you get the impression that Thursday’s clash with Brighton is absolutely pivotal. Fresh off the back of a 3-0 win at Arsenal this weekend, he Seagulls won’t fear a trip to St. James’ Park. Still in with an outside chance of top four themselves, it’s do-or-die for them.
If Newcastle come through that with three points, then you’d back them to see off Leicester City and qualify with a game to spare. But anything other than a win for the Magpies and it suddenly starts to look a little precarious. A trip to Stamford Bridge on the final day of the season is awkward and if the pressure is still on then, it could prove to be too much.
Either way, all Liverpool can do is worry about themselves. Win their last two games and see where they are. After last night’s win, Europa League football is already now secured. But we all want to be playing at the top table. Let’s hope Rafa’s prediction is wide of the mark.
Still all to play for, and after the season we’ve had, that shouldn’t be taken for granted. Come on, Reds!