Liverpool's task to finish in the top four became a lot more difficult after losing to Manchester United at Anfield last Sunday. A fine example of a six-pointer, Liverpool could have been a point ahead of their fierce rivals with victory but sit five points behind Louis van Gaal's side after a disappointing performance before the international break. A draw would have maintained a two-point gap with only a positive set of results over one matchday to see Liverpool jump from fifth to fourth.
Liverpool's task becomes even more unenviable with the prospect of a trip to the Emirates to face in-from Arsenal on the same weekend Manchester United host Aston Villa. Even a creditable draw with Arsène Wenger's third-placed side could see the gap widen with Tottenham Hotspur and Southampton currently only a point behind Brendan Rodgers' young squad. Fifth could easily become sixth or seventh. Liverpool's record against the current top four has amounted to one victory in six matches with trips to Arsenal and Chelsea to come. An improvement will be needed to keep Champions League football at Anfield next season.
For Jan Molby, writing in his column for the Liverpool Echo, the seeds of defeat to Manchester United were sown in "flat" displays against Blackburn Rovers and Swansea City. Describing Champions League qualification as "difficult for Liverpool to gain", the former Liverpool midfielder remains convinced that the upcoming game against Arsenal has taken on special importance in the race for the top four.
The trip to Arsenal next week is now the last-chance saloon in terms of a top-four finish. We need to win that.
We were all hoping United would falter, but the signs were there in their impressive win against Tottenham Hotspur, and in a funny way they are getting more out of the team now many of the expensive signings are not playing.
If we lose to Arsenal, I’d be amazed if the other clubs above us drop enough points for us to catch up.
Winning against Arsenal not only keeps Liverpool in touch with the top four, but could see Liverpool benefit from Manchester United's difficult run of fixtures in April as well as come within three points of Arsenal. Liverpool and Brendan Rodgers are faced with another six-pointer, but can victory be attained with injuries and suspensions afflicting a squad under pressure to get a result?