When Jürgen Klopp arrived at Anfield in the autumn, for the most the target was getting Liverpool’s league form on track in the hopes the club could make a top four push. For a time, it seemed that had been achieved—that perhaps even more could be possible in one of the strangest Premier League seasons in recent memory.
A series of unfortunate defeats and sub-par performances over the holiday period, though, have largely ended such talk. The most recent, a 2-0 defeat to West Ham, has all but ended Liverpool’s league hopes and put the focus on the three cup competitions the club is still involved in. And first up is Stoke City in the Capital One Cup tomorrow.
"This cup is important," insisted the Liverpool manager today. "We have to go for it and our target is that we can win it. It will be hard because Mark Hughes has done a brilliant job. It’s the biggest change in football, how Stoke now plays. We know about their qualities, of course. It’s a team I know much about because I know many of the players."
At this stage of the cup, any side would be looking to win it. A two-legged semi-final against Stoke is all that stands between Liverpool and a trip to Wembley to face off against either Everton or Manchester City for the chance to win the trophy. In between the two legs, Liverpool also make their entry into this year’s edition of the FA Cup.
"How important it might be for our development, that’s a question we can maybe answer in a few weeks or months," added Klopp. "But not very often in my life have I had silverware in my hands, so if there’s a chance, we go for it. We don’t have six, seven, eight players to change. We need to respond to the last game. We want to win it."
Liverpool can and should keep pushing in the league to see where it gets them, but with the season half-way done they would need around two points per game the rest of the way just to be in contention for the top four come the end of the season. To date, they have averaged 1.5ppg. Short of a massive, immediate improvement, that’s not an option.
Silverware elsewhere is. Certainly in the League Cup this week, where a two-legged tie is all that stands between the Reds and the final. And then there’s the Europa League, which might now offer their best chance at qualifying for next season’s Champions League. There, they kick off the Round of 32 against Augsburg on February 18th.