Following losses to Manchester United and Arsenal, any chance Liverpool had of making the top four appeared to be over. Realistically, it still probably is—as poor as Manchester City have been of late, even victory against Newcastle would see the Reds, in no great form themselves of late, needing to do five points better than the Citizens over the final six games of the season.
The struggles of City, though, as well as the boost provided by securing a trip to Wembley for the FA Cup semi-final, does at least mean there is hope now, both for Liverpool fans and for the players. Liverpool are firm underdogs, but they aren’t completely out of the picture. They will, however, need to put their recent uneven form behind them and turn in an impressive performance against Newcastle tonight to keep that hope alive.
"We have to win the game," said midfielder Lucas Leiva, taking some time out to speak to Sky Sports ahead of Monday night’s match. "We are at home and after two defeats it’s important to get the three points, start winning in the last seven games, starting with Newcastle. It’s going to be hard, but after the FA Cup game, it has given us a lot of belief that we can get back to winning ways on Monday night."
With City’s thumping at the hands of in-form rivals Manchester United on Sunday, a win against Newcastle would put Liverpool within four points of the current fourth place side. City, however, have a greater than 20 goal advantage in goal differential, meaning they would easily win a tiebreaker scenario should the two sides end the year level on points. It may not seem a huge gap, but with so little time left it is.
To have a chance at the top four, Liverpool likely have to be perfect the rest of the way. Even then, City will need at least one more loss and to drop points in two of their remaining six matches overall. That doesn’t seem an impossible hope, but if Liverpool drop points of their own at any point, City’s cushion—currently seven points before Liverpool face Newcastle—quickly starts to look very, very comfortable.
It makes for a must win against Newcastle. Anything less, and Liverpool’s league season is essentially over following a very difficult six week stretch that in addition to the losses to United and Arsenal saw Liverpool struggle to get past Blackburn in the cup over two legs and snatch a lucky victory over Swansea.