Paul Merson insists it would be “unthinkable” for Liverpool to miss out on the top four and feels Thursday’s clash with Chelsea is vital.
The Reds will head into the Anfield encounter one point behind their west London opponents. From runaway winners last term, Jurgen Klopp’s side sit sixth in the standings – 22 points adrift of table-topping Manchester City.
They are two points behind West Ham United in fourth and the race is on to qualify for the Champions League. City are virtually assured a place in next season’s elite club competition.
But, it is then a toss up between Manchester United Leicester City, the Hammers, the Blues, Liverpool and Everton. It seems incredible that the Merseysiders could fall so far after heading the table at the turn of the year.
But six defeats and just three wins in 10 games has seen them among the also-rans. Every point is now crucial and playing a direct top-four opponent even more so.
Merson certainly thinks that is the case and believes both side’s ambitions will be severely hit if they lose.
“Liverpool and Chelsea and teams like that will be spending money on the strength of expecting that money to be coming in next season, Champions League money,” he told Sky Sports. “That’s why it’s a big game – I don’t think either team can afford to lose it.
“I can’t explain how big it would be if Liverpool ended up not getting in the top four, it’s massive. Massive. Liverpool can’t not be in the Champions League.”
Late rally required
However, there is still enough talent in the ranks to get the job done. Klopp’s men managed to stop the rot with a 2-0 victory over Sheffield United last time out.
Following the match against Thomas Tuchel’s side, they play Fulham and Wolves. But, according to the former Arsenal and England star, every game is now like a final.
“To be out of the top four would be unthinkable – unthinkable,” Merson added. They would’ve budgeted everything, everything about it – season tickets, everything.
“TV money from the Champions League, prize money for getting through the groups; it pays people’s wages. They’re not bottomless pits.
“They still have to look at their books. It won’t be ‘oh, don’t worry about it’. And they need to bring in players. We’ve seen that with a few injuries they’ve become a lot less of a team.”
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