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Liverpool Are Keeping Their Champions League Dreams Alive

The goal of 71 points might not be enough, but history shows that it probably will be. Barely.

Liverpool FC v Rangers FC: Group A - UEFA Champions League Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

As things currently stand, Liverpool have about a 1 in 3, or 29% chance of qualifying for the Champions League, according to the latest FiveThirtyEight odds. These odds were down to the single digits last week, but drastically improved as Liverpool extended their winning streak, and Manchester United, Newcastle, and Brighton all dropped points.

This weekend, including Liverpool’s Monday night clash against Leicester City, could prove to be make-or-break for keeping our Champions League hopes alive.

When Liverpool started their winning run, currently at 6 matches, 71 points seemed impossibly far away, especially after this turbulent campaign. Now, it’s just 3 wins away, and all in matches Liverpool should be expected to win.

To me, the biggest question was always whether Liverpool would get to 71, not whether it would be enough. That is still a big if, and probably the biggest factor keeping Liverpool’s odds under 30%. Because over the last 10 seasons, 71 points has usually been enough to secure Top 4. Indeed, the average point tally for the 4th spot over the last 10 years is, wait for it, 71.4 points.

In 7 of the last 10 seasons, 71 points were enough to qualify for Champions League. And it would have been enough in each of the last 5 seasons. The only outliers are 16/17 (unlucky Arsenal), 13/14 (unlucky Everton), and 12/13 (unlucky Spurs). (Side note: Liverpool finished 4th in 17/18 2ith 75 points, but could have secured Top 4 with 70 points).

Even more encouraging for the Reds, in all but one of those seasons, the 4th placed team had a better goal differential than anyone outside of the top 4. Only Chelsea in 19/20 finished 4th with a worse goal difference than 5th placed Leicester City.

As things stand, Liverpool have a much better goal difference than 4th placed United (+25 to +7, no doubt helped by the 14 goal swing in a certain match that will live long in the memories). And although Liverpool are 7 goals behind Newcastle, that’s not an impossible gap to close, particularly if Liverpool win the 3 remaining matches and Newcastle drop enough points to make the goal difference matter.

If Liverpool win out, Manchester United will need to win 3 of their last 4. Not impossible, but still a tall order for a team averaging 1.85 points per game over the season. It’s an easier road for Newcastle, realistically only needing 6 points from their remaining 4 games (again, unless goal differential comes into play).

Liverpool have another advantage: they are now in a position to put real scoreboard pressure on the teams above them. Should United fail to win, or Newcastle lose, Liverpool could go above one or both of them on Monday night.

As we have seen in a few previous last day Champions League qualifications, Liverpool might not need to win out (as was the case in both 17/18 and 20/21), but they need to make the other teams fear that they will.

Three wins should do it. If not, we can add our names to the list of “the unlucky.” But finishing the season with 9 straight wins and unbeaten in 11 is no small feat. Regardless of whether it’s enough, that bodes well for next season.

Let’s win out and see where the chips fall.

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