When Leicester City beat Manchester United on Tuesday, Liverpool’s top four hopes appeared all but dashed. Today, following a victory by Arsenal over Chelsea on Wednesday and as they prepare to face Man United themselves, there is a glimmer of hope.
It’s faint, and it will require a Liverpool side that hasn’t won more than three games in a row in the league this season to follow up their victory over Southampton with four more, but today Jürgen Klopp and his players know that if they do that they will be a near certainty to qualify for the Champions League next season.
That’s because while the Reds currently trail Chelsea by seven points and Leicester by nine, they have two games in hand—and the two sides they’re chasing face each other, meaning either both will drop two points or one will drop three.
Both sides Liverpool are chasing have two games to play. Chelsea face Leicester and Aston Villa, and Leicester face Chelsea and Tottenham. If both win their other game, it would give Leicester 69 points and Chelsea 67. Then, add on the result of their head-to-head matchup.
- If Leicester beat Chelsea, they would have 72 points while Chelsea would have 67.
- If the game is a draw, Leicester would have 70 points and Chelsea would have 68.
- If Chelsea beat Leicester, they would have 70 points while Leicester would have 69.
- If Liverpool win their final four matches, they would end the season with 69 points.
That would qualify Jürgen Klopp’s Reds for the Champions League in the first two scenarios while in the third the tie for fourth place would be decided by goal differential.
On that front, winning four games in a row for the Reds would improve their goal differential by at least +4, taking it to at least +22. Meanwhile a loss to Chelsea would remove one from Leicester’s current goal differential tally and put them at +20.
At that point, Leicester’s margin of victory against Tottenham matters. Win by one and they lose the tiebreaker. Win by two and goal differential is level and it goes to goals scored—where Leicester have an advantage. But then if Liverpool win one of their games by two, Leicester have to beat Spurs by three. And if the Reds win two of their matches by two or one by three, Leicester have to beat Spurs by four.
All of which is to say that if Liverpool win out, the top four will almost certainly be theirs. The only problem, of course, being the part where Liverpool really do have to win out at this point and that this Liverpool side hasn’t done better than to win three in a row in the league so far this season.
They also haven’t won against Manchester United at Old Trafford since Jürgen Klopp took charge of the club. So that’s another small problem to overcome.
All of this talk of hope and finishing in the top four, then, could very much be a moot point by the time the final whistle blows on tonight’s rescheduled northwest derby. And even if the Reds do win tonight, this injury-riddled side following up victories over Southampton and United with three more to see out the season would be an exceptionally long shot.
Still, on paper and as of this moment there’s a clear pathway to a top four finish and Champions League qualification. As of this moment, Liverpool have their destiny in their own hands. Right now, and after rather looking like it wouldn’t, tonight’s game matters.