Liverpool have had their share of stumbles this season. Losses to Hull and Leicester City and Swansea. Draws with Sunderland and Bournemouth. Poor performances in games that on paper they were clear favourites to win, and games that had they won them would have seen them saunter to a top four finish.
In the end, though, they look to have made it. Or at least they will have if they can defeat Middlesbrough on Sunday. Already relegated Middlesbrough with 28 points to show for their season and the lowest goals scored in the entire Premier League. Already relegated Middlesbrough who will have to come to Anfield.
“If we can’t beat Boro at home, we don’t deserve a Champions League place,” was Liverpool legend John Aldridge’s take on the matter, and it’s impossible to disagree with that. Arsenal would slip up, either tonight against Sunderland or Sunday against Everton, but really, that shouldn’t be Liverpool’s concern.
Neither of the Gunners’ opponents should have to do the Reds a favour, not with a poor, relegated side arriving at Anfield for the final game of the 2016-17 season. If anything, Liverpool should be looking at it as a chance to pad their scoring stats and just maybe to beat Manchester City to third place in the final table.
“No excuses,” Aldridge added. “If Boro want to come to Anfield and sit back playing for a 0-0 then that’s their prerogative. We need that Champions League spot so we can get the money to make the squad stronger and more competitive. It comes down to one game, I’ll be nervous come Sunday, but right now I can’t wait.”
Liverpool shouldn’t be here, and have thrown away far too many points for a side with their quality, even accounting for injuries and the league’s parity and strong bottom half. They are, though, and now they just need another win and to not concern themselves with what Arsenal might or might not be doing.
Focus on a win, focus on a strong performance against a poor side—the kind of poor side that has given them problems this season—and focus on chasing City and a top three finish that would guarantee a place in the group stages of next season’s Champions League. Like Aldridge says, there are no excuses.