Jürgen Klopp has urged his Liverpool players to fight until to the end of the season and qualify for the Champions League. Despite managing just one win in eight games in all competitions this month, Liverpool remain in the top four. Barely. A fourth successive home defeat would probably see Liverpool drop out of it for the first time since September.
Liverpool have in fact been in the top four since beating Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, and they were counted as serious title contenders for much of the autumn. Two draws and a defeat this month have altered those prospects, but there's still much to fight for with 16 league games left.
“Let’s go to the end of the season,” Klopp said. “I think it’s possible we could qualify for the Champions League. If we did that should we say: ‘yes, but we lost here and there and that’s why we didn’t become champions?’
“Is it allowed to celebrate a position like this? In this strong league with the outstanding run of Chelsea so far. Nobody else has an influence on it. They play their season and we play them two times. I think yes it should be allowed that we would celebrate something like this. As long as this is possible for us we should fight for it because that’s how a football season is.
“Everyone can tell me that in 1998 we had exactly the same situation – League Cup semi-final, FA Cup fourth round, and then the league was like this. That’s not to change. But we can change from this moment the future and influence it, and that’s all I’m interested in.
“I think we should try and not judge players now and talk about all the mistakes we made in the season. We made that many mistakes that we are still fourth in the league and out of the League Cup in the semi-final. It feels different for a lot of people but not for me. Thank God I’m closer to the team than all the rest. We will do everything to be as successful as possible.”
That penultimate line suggests that Klopp is fully aware of the criticism, some which has been justified, following what has been a terrible month for the club. Knocked out of the EFL Cup and losing both semi-final legs to Southampton, beaten by the Premier League's bottom side at Anfield, and knocked out of the FA Cup at home to a team in the lower reaches of the Championship. Klopp, though, remains bullish and believes that "the challenge for all of us is to stay positive" in difficult times.
Defeat against Chelsea at Anfield tomorrow would make that an even greater task, but a win could change the narrative, and Jürgen Klopp is a manager who knows a thing or two about making believers out of doubters.