There are permutations that would allow Liverpool, currently sat in eighth, to qualify for the Europa League next season over their next three league games. You would be hard pressed to find a single Liverpool fan who especially cared what they might be right now.
Right now, all that matters is the current Europa League campaign. All that matters is Thursday night and securing a place in the final. All that matters is the chance at a piece of silverware that would bring with it as an added bonus a place in the Champions League come next season. That’s all that matters.
"We will be better on Thursday," was Jürgen Klopp’s succinct response when asked about Sunday’s poor result in the Premier League against Swansea City, a disappointing 3-1 defeat, and the need to get things back on track in time for Thursday’s second leg clash against Villarreal.
"I saw it for the whole 90 minutes and there was not a lot to be enjoyed to be honest. We have to think about it and we have to recover, which is very important, and we will play much, much better than we did on Sunday. We have to accept the result, which is what we do, and then we work."
Liverpool will need to be better. That much is clear. But beyond just putting in a better performance, the late goal they conceded in the first leg last week puts them in the awkward position of knowing they need to do more than just win to advance to the the Europa League final. To advance, they need to win by two.
Villarreal won the first leg 1-0, so a 1-0 win for Liverpool this week sees the aggregate score levelled and the game sent to extra time. If it’s still level after extra time—when the away goals rule still stands and any Villarreal goal would give the La Liga side the tiebreaker—the tie would go to penalties.
A 2-0 win for Liverpool puts them through. The same goes a 3-1 or 4-2 victory. A one goal victory other than 1-0 that forces extra time, though, would see Villarreal advance on away goals. A 2-1 Liverpool victory, for example, means a 2-2 aggregate scoreline—but gives Villarreal an away goal.
So. Liverpool will need to be better. And then Liverpool will need to win by two goals. It’s really as simple as that.