The top four is out of reach for Liverpool this year. With 12 games to go, they would likely need at least nine wins and two draws or ten wins to have a chance at making it. Even competing for fifth and guaranteed Europa League qualification appears to be out of the question. From here on out, the league is about building for next season.
There’s still the promise of Europa League glory with a Round of 16 tie against domestic rivals Manchester United and a chance to qualify for the Champions League should Liverpool manage to win the competition. But outside of that, manager Jürgen Klopp finds himself in an odd position where results largely don’t matter. Now, it’s about examining all his options and planning for the future.
"You have to analyse it," said Klopp, reflecting on Sunday’s cup final loss to Manchester City. "You cannot change the result but try to take things from it. We can use the experience of a final in another final maybe. We saw that we are capable of good things, as we had more than 60% of the possession against a football-playing side and we created a few chances—not enough, but a few."
Some are already speculating that Klopp will have made a decision one way or the other on more than a few of his players, but the manager insists that isn’t the case, and that a few individual errors on Sunday won’t decide anybody’s future. The next few months of league play just might, though, and the manager’s team selections when everybody is fit could say a lot about his future plans.
Striker Christian Benteke already appears not to be in them, and when Martin Skrtel and Dejan Lovren return it could be telling which pairs with Mamadou Sakho in defence—assuming that Sakho is a lock to start. There are similar questions to be answered in midfield and attack, and many have begun to wonder if the admirable work rate of James Milner and Adam Lallana will be enough to save them.
According to the manager, he hasn’t made the final call on anybody yet—not the defenders or strikers of even embattled goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, who was both hero and villain at various times in Sunday’s eventual loss to City. Time is running out on the season, though, and with little to play for in the league in the here and now, the next few months will be about making those decisions.
"I cant make a final judgement on a player just because it was a final," Klopp added. "I can’t say, ‘I can trust him, but I can’t trust him.’ We only lost on penalties. I’m always learning about my players but not just on Sunday because it was a cup final. We always learn. We could have played better, but it was not bad. But it could have been better."