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Liverpool’s Final Countdown: 10 To Go

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Liverpool will look to consolidate their Top 4 position, hopefully not looking ahead to Porto or Manchester United next week.

UEFA Champions League: Maccabi Haifa v Liverpool Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

With Chelsea falling to a 12-man Manchester United (11, plus the linesman), Liverpool fans could be mistaken for thinking it greatly improved our Top 4 odds. According to the folks at Five Thirty Eight it didn’t really, but that’s largely because our chances of qualifying for the Champions League next season can’t go much higher. This time last week, our odds of qualifying were already pegged at 96%. After our win and Chelsea’s loss, our odds jumped to...drum roll please...97%.

By their model, Chelsea were expected to drop points in that fixture roughly 68% of the time, so their loss was in many ways “priced in” to the predictions. And with another trip to Manchester—the Blue and better half—this week, Chelsea face only a 16% chance of escaping with all three points.

The upshot of all of this is that Tottenham and United (boo) saw their Top 4 odds greatly increase from 81% to 87%, and from 69% to 82%, respectively, while Chelsea’s odds dropped (hooray), from 44% to 28%. Arsenal’s odds dropped from 10% to 7% by not playing (either in the Premier League, or the League Cup final, apparently). Unlucky.

So while Chelsea yet again face a tough, must-win trip to Manchester, Liverpool are off doing their own thing, playing boss footy, and scoring goals for fun. Don’t mind us.

We did the business last week, overcoming a slow start and trotting out eventual 4-1 winners over West Ham. In doing so, Liverpool reduced their points per game (ppg) needed to secure that magical 76-point threshold from 2 to 1.9. With 10 games to go, that means we have to secure exactly 19 points, so something along the lines of 6 wins, a draw, and three losses, or 5 wins, 4 draws, and a loss.

This shouldn’t be a difficult task for a team that, sans a former number 10, is averaging around 2.3 ppg. Moreover, Liverpool are favorites in each and every one of their remaining 10 matches, according to Five Thirty Eight’s model. Yes, even slight favorites at Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge.

For the sake of comparison, Chelsea are underdogs in three of their 10 remaining matches: the aforementioned City showdown, the aforementioned Liverpool showdown, and a slight dog against crosstown rivals Spurs. Tottenham host City, where they are currently at even odds with the league leaders. And United are underdogs twice in their run in; I’m sure they will love to hear that they are neither favorites to beat Liverpool nor City.

From merely looking at the table, a 2-point advantage over Spurs, and a 4-point advantage over Chelsea does not feel terribly safe (especially since Liverpool must go to Chelsea in the penultimate match of the season). But at this stage, especially when considering the remaining fixtures, it is starting to be a big gap.

For Chelsea to reach that 76-point threshold, they need 2.3 ppg now. If they fail to beat City, that will increase to 2.44 with a draw, or 2.55 with a loss (basically title-winning form, in a normal year, anyhow).

If Liverpool can notch another win against Newcastle (which, love of Rafa aside, we should do), the Reds will need only 16 points from their remaining 9, or 1.77 ppg (or: a ppg Everton would kill to have). In practical terms, it reduces the number of wins necessary to qualify down from 5 or 6, to 4 or 5, and gives us every reason to continue looking up the table, not down.

Jurgen Klopp needs to keep the lads focused on the task at hand, Newcastle. It’s not the easiest of tasks with a home Champions League knock-out round match and Manchester United on the immediate horizon. But it is yet another vital three points if they wish to keep the pressure on all the teams around them.