After presumably killing off talk of fourth place a few weeks ago, the thought of European qualification is alive and well again amongst Liverpool’s starting eleven. Prompted by defeating a Top 4 side for the first time this season and an unfavourable FA Cup semi-final draw, some of the more seasoned members of Brendan Rodgers’ squad are hoping to get back into European competition the old fashioned way: by climbing the league table and clawing their way to at least fifth place.
"Liverpool don't belong in seventh, eighth or ninth in the table," Steven Gerrard bluntly stated. "We want to push for the European places year after year. Hopefully it's not too late but we will need to produce the perfect finish to sneak in the back door.
"The top five places are the target. Let's see what happens in other big games that are not in our control. Hopefully the teams above us will slip up. All we can control is our performances and our consistency and hopefully we will finish strong."
As has been noted by optimists every time the word "fourth" was uttered in the last two months, Liverpool’s final stretch of matches sees the club face lower table sides for the bulk of the games, with their only meetings against fellow European qualification-seeking clubs taking place at Anfield. A good string of results paired with the slip ups by the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal, and Everton that Gerrard is pulling for could make for a last gasp chance at fifth place.
Not to be outdone by his captain, Lucas Levia one upped Gerrard by suggesting that on the back of the performance against Tottenham, the club can still imagine a fourth place finish.
"We are improving at the right time and, because of that, we can dream of a Champions League place.
"It was our third consecutive victory, something that is worth a lot given the difficulty of the Premier League. We will continue to work hard, without fanfare, and things will come naturally."
It would be easy to feel frustration or even exhaustion at hearing key figures at the club continue to discuss what many felt was a dead horse that had been flogged one too many times, and yet with the club finally looking like they’ve adapted to Rodgers’ playing system and, perhaps just as importantly, having developed a competitive and positive attitude, Liverpool improbably don’t seem down for the count quite yet. If the team continue to play as they have for their last few matches, they’ll have worked themselves into a position where just a little good fortune could give us all a bit of a surprise by the end of May.
[For the Excel aficionados amongst us, CrimsonTideGermany put together a match simulator that will estimate Liverpool’s likelihood of reaching Europe based on the remaining matches in the season. Super fun!]