The FA Cup and Europa League awaits with possible final appearances. But it is in the league where Liverpool has got the real cup finals, 13 of them. Is it gonna be lucky or unlucky 13?
The title dream quickly evaporated in the autumn and Liverpool was forced to switch aim. Now the Reds are hoping for a top four finish in the league to enable a Champions League participation in 2015/16.
This season is nearing its conclusion and five teams are fighting for two Champions League spots. Manchester United is currently in 3rd place with 47 points while Liverpool is parked in 7th with 42. In between three teams reside, Southampton with 46 points, Arsenal with 45 and Tottenham with 43. Two of this five teams will be successful in their quest for qualification to the most prestigous tournament i Europe. Liverpool has the toughest task of the five having the least amount of points at this point. There is 13 league fixtures left to make the CL goal come true.
Can Liverpool do it? Is 13 gonna be a lucky number or our downfall? The answer is still up in the air.
Let´s take a look at the remaining programme. The most difficult period is the one coming up next. From the 22nd of February until the 4th of April Liverpool face three of our rivals for top four, Southampton, Manchester United and Arsenal plus league title chasers Manchester City. The six match sequence also contains encounters versus relegation battlers Burnley and current mid table positioned Swansea.
It´s a must to aquire quite a fair share of points during this period to even have a chance of top four. We probably must beat Man Utd and Man City at home aswell as avoid defeat at Southampton and Arsenal. Furthermore both Burnley and Swansea must be downed. This means 14 points amassed of a possible 18. It will be extremely difficult, especially as both FA Cup and Europa League matches are to be played during this phase. It means at least nine games in 42 days, possibly twelve if we progress in Europa League and get a replay in the sixth round of the FA Cup. This schedule will take its toll on the squad. Both physically and mentally. Everytime the charge must be as if a cup final awaits. It´s debatable if the current Red side is capable of that.
Manager Brendan Rodgers says he has got the best squad ever at Liverpool and thinks it can cope with the upcoming tight programme. I am not so sure. We have got the numbers, but do we have the quality? What happens if Daniel Sturridge gets injured again and Mario Balotelli keeps underperforming? Or if both Philippe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling gets sidelined at the same time? Can we really come up with a top four challenge then? Presumably not. So our chance in the top four battle is to have a injury-free squad and even then the odds are stacked against us.
If we somehow can manage to come out unscathed after the six upcoming formidable hurdles then hopes will rise. And with unscathed I mean at least 14 points, perhaps even more.
Let´s say we do it. Then seven final league matches awaits and they are on paper much easier than the six before them. The septet include home games versus current mid table sides Newcastle and Crystal Palace aswell as a meeting with struggling QPR. Four away matches holds tougher tests. Two relegation fighters in West Bromwich and Hull are waiting aswell as mid table Stoke and title chasers Chelsea.
The three home games should mean nine points. The real trouble will occur on our travels. We have often problem with Stoke at Britannia and teams fighting to beat the drop is always tough propositions. And to get something from a clash at Chelsea is as we know a tall order.
Liverpool need to aquire a total of 70 points, at least, to have chance of a top four finish. If the Reds claim 14 points in the next six matches we then have 56 ahead of the remaining seven fixtures. In those we need another 14 points. So a five point haul away to Stoke, West Bromwich and Hull can do the trick if we don´t slip in our final three home matches.
So from now to end of the season Liverpool must win eight league matches, draw four and just lose one to be in contention for a CL place. It sounds difficult but not impossible. Our current form suggests that this kind of magnificent finish is feasible.
The key to it all is to perform really well in the next six matches. There is three major reasons for this. First of all, we need the points and secondly a good sequence would enhance self-confidence ahead of the final stretch. And if we amass less than 14 points then belief will get a major dent and at the same time rivals will probaly get out of our reach. It´s exiting times though, as:
We Go Again.