Liverpool Blueprint to Earn a Champions League Spot

John RichardsonCorrespondent IFebruary 5, 2013

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - JANUARY 19:  Luis Suarez of Liverpool celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Norwich City at Anfield on January 19, 2013 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Liverpool must overcome a nine-point deficit in their remaining 13 league fixtures this season if they are to achieve Champions League qualification.

A 2-2 draw against Manchester City at the weekend has given supporters some reason to smile, but a lack of victories against top-four sides during the 2012-13 campaign has left many wondering whether the Reds are truly fit to reclaim their position amongst Europe's elite.

There have certainly been moments over the past six months where one can definitively say that Liverpool's play has been far short of warranting a top-four finish.

A 3-1 home loss to a struggling Aston Villa outfit comes to mind, as well as an opening day spanking at the hands of West Bromwich Albion.

There have, however, been periods in which the Reds have looked nothing short of top class—a 5-0 demolition of Norwich City back in January and a 4-0 dismantling of Fulham over the holiday period just to highlight a few.

All in all it has been a mixed bag in terms of form, but as Brendan Rodgers begins settle into his managerial role we should start to see more consistency.

The additions of Daniel Sturridge and Philipe Coutinho in the January transfer window have significantly bolstered Rodgers' attacking options for the remainder of the season (presuming everyone stays healthy).

The Sturridge signing has already paid dividends, with the 23-year-old netting four in his first five appearances for the club.

The Reds have high hopes for Coutinho, who was tipped to be the next big thing out of Brazil when Inter signed him at the age of 16, but the diminutive winger has yet to live up to the hype.

A fresh start at a new club could be just what he needs to jump-start his faltering career.

And how can I go on about Liverpool's top-four chances without mentioning their talismanic striker, Luis Suarez. The No. 7 is currently on course for a 30-plus goal season and at times has single-handedly turned defeats into draws and draws into victories.

On the defensive end of the stick, Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel and Glen Johnson have and will continue to act as stalwarts in the Reds' back line.

One point of concern that could cause the squad some problems down the homestretch is Pepe Reina's inexplicable run of poor form.

The Spaniard has gained a reputation as one of the world's finest shot-stoppers since his move from Villareal in 2005, but has looked suspect on several occasions, most notably in Liverpool's 2-2 draw with Manchester City at the weekend.

Moving forward, Rodgers needs to instill confidence back into his side and generate a belief that attaining Champions League football is still a real possibility.

Liverpool have some of the world's top talent at their disposal, and it is about time the club start to reflect that quality in the league table.