In a season where Liverpool’s league title defence has not gone to plan, it’s a credit to Jurgen Klopp that his squad are still in with a chance to play European football next year. Overcoming countless injuries and distractions to keep the Reds afloat, Klopp saw their second-half resurgence stalled somewhat at Leeds but this remains a side with every shot of making the top four.
Perhaps more frustrating will be going out of the Champions League. A listless performance in the first leg against Real Madrid gave Klopp’s men too much ground to make up in the second. The European giants, now a target of ridicule from all corners thanks to Florentino Perez’s shameless defence of the failed Super League project, are third favourites to win the competition in the latest UEFA Champions League betting with Betfair. If they can see off Thomas Tuchel’s tight defensive outfit, they would be rewarded with a shot at a fifth European title in eight years.
Liverpool, meanwhile, face tough competition to play Champions League football at all next year as the Premier League season draws to a close. With Leicester pulling away in third place, there could yet be only one spot up for grabs between Liverpool, Chelsea and upstart West Ham. Fortunately, then, it seems like Klopp is getting season-best performances from certain players at the most crucial part of the campaign.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) April 12, 2021
Since being dropped from the England squad for the World Cup qualifiers in March, Trent Alexander-Arnold has been playing with a chip on his shoulder. The right-back surely knows that this stretch of the season will be vital to his chances of playing himself back into Gareth Southgate’s squad in time for the European Championships this summer. In the three league games following that squad announcement, Alexander-Arnold contributed a goal and two assists after a run of eight games without either. That included a gorgeous curler in injury time to defeat Aston Villa at Anfield to end a poor run of form at home.
With Alexander-Arnold firing on all cylinders, this is a side that bristles with attacking potential. It was creativity and goal-scoring, his prowess bombing forward on the right flank, that made him one of the world’s most sought-after young players at his position. Liverpool’s style of play over the last three years has revolved around the full-backs getting forward to feed the front three – without that supply line, they’ve looked almost toothless at times this season.
Going into a final run of fixtures that includes matches against lower-table sides like Southampton, West Brom, Burnley and Crystal Palace, Klopp will expect Alexander-Arnold to continue to contribute at both ends of the pitch in an easier run-in. With Chelsea and Leicester still to play one another again this season, there will be chances for Liverpool to take a top four spot if results go their way; Chelsea also play champions-elect Manchester City, while Leicester face Manchester United and Tottenham as part of their run-in.
To do that, however, Liverpool and Alexander-Arnold will need to show they can continue their recent league form. A return to the play that saw six straight home defeats during the height of the injury crisis, and Anfield could be hosting Europa League football – at best – in the 2021/22 campaign.