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Four Games to Top Four

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Liverpool need to get to winning ways quickly to stay ahead in the race for Champions League qualification.

West Bromwich Albion v Liverpool - Premier League Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images

After yesterday’s dreary draw between Manchester City and Manchester United, Liverpool still remain third in the league despite nefarious and diabolical handshakes, Crystal Palace repeat prescriptions at Anfield, increasingly tedious efforts to be transparent with top targets, sultry v-neck kits for next season, a deliciously naughty £10 million asking price for Kevin Stewart, Daniel Sturridge escaping the hellfire of another injury setback, the most expensive defender in Liverpool’s history signing a new contract even though he doesn’t appear to be comfortable defending without a minder, and finding out that a significant portion of the club’s transfer budget doesn’t have an exploded knee after all. Still third and sitting on chrome.

Automatic Champions League qualification is bestowed to the top three teams in the league, but just finishing anywhere in the top four will be enough for Merseyside’s finest. Qualifiers or not, relieved sighs before further requisite examinations are sought after the final whistle of the season. Without the land of milk and honey, grand designs will duly come asunder. Cast out ambitious thoughts of Virgil van Dijk, Naby Keïta, Julian Brandt, and Ryan Sessegnon. Ignore spelling and capitalisation advice for their names as it won’t matter. Time spent. Time wasted.

The perpetual spite and dedicated pragmatism of José Mourinho couldn’t inspire his team to victory at the Etihad, but another Premier League game passed without defeat. 24 games unbeaten and counting. A win on Sunday against Swansea City would see Manchester United move into the top four at the expense of Liverpool. Mourinho instead of our Jürgen Klopp. Middlesbrough aren't going to beat Manchester City so it's on Liverpool to win games instead of looking at the potential travails of their peers. Arsenal are creeping forward, Wenger beat Pep, and they could spring a surprise against Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday. Fixtures and form still give Merseyside’s finest an advantage, but that will not win games for Liverpool.

Four games to the top four where each game is the most important of the season. Only Watford matters. Forget the clouds and the stars. Tie your shoelaces and get prepared to take the bins out early in the morning. Iron the wrinkles in your shirt before thinking about colour coordination and working with tricky colours. Look at how to handle Troy Deeney instead of sweating over futile plans on how to stifle Kylian Mbappé. It is always the needful that comes first.

Perhaps Liverpool have done it differently this season in eye-catching ways, but there can be no escape from the club’s obligations to secure a place in the top four: do what you're supposed to do. Do not try, Liverpool. No, don't tell us that story again. We have already heard it before. Do it. Do. It. That’s it. There really is nothing else but Watford. On Monday. We miss three points in that game, we probably miss out. No pressure.