After Thursday's heartbreaking 2-1 loss to Benfica in their UEFA Europa League campaign, many people have already written off Liverpool.
People all around the world feel that Liverpool have no chance of getting a Champions League spot this season. With the loss to Benfica in the Europa League quarterfinals, it looks like Liverpool's hopes of securing any silverware are all but over.
Their chances of securing a Champions League berth are also looking bleak with the other contenders still ahead of them with games in hand.
But amidst the gloomy atmosphere all around Anfield there is still hope for the Reds to secure a fourth spot this season.
A look at the Reds' next six fixtures in comparison to their other competitors in the Premier League should give enough hope to the Liverpool fans. If Liverpool can maintain their performance similar to the one displayed against Sunderland last weekend then they have a high chance of making the fourth spot.
Liverpool faces a tricky fixture away to Birmingham this weekend. The last time the two teams met, the Reds were held to a 2-2 draw at Anfield. This time Liverpool can make no mistakes if they want to keep their hopes alive for the fourth spot.
Liverpool's next league fixtures are against Fulham, West Ham, Burnley, Chelsea, and Hull City. Out of these games, only the fixtures against Fulham and Chelsea should be bit of a hurdle.
In contrast, their rival for fourth spot—Manchester City—have tough draws against Aston Villa, Spurs, United, and Arsenal. If the Mancini's high-flying City falters in any of the big games, Liverpool can easily overcome them for the fourth spot.
The same applies to Tottenham, another contender for fourth place. Spurs, who were well-beaten 3-1 by a resurgent Sunderland today, face tough games ahead against the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City. Given their previous records against these big clubs, a loss or two will give Liverpool enough opportunity to claim back their fourth spot.
Aston Villa are the team that could really pose a hurdle to the Reds' quest for a Champions League berth. With tricky games against Everton and Manchester City, a surprise win could see them claim the fourth spot from Liverpool. After today's 1-0 win against Bolton they are on level points with Liverpool with a game in hand.
If Martin O'Neill's inconsistent Villains deliver a consistent performance in their last six league games, Benitez and his men could see themselves playing in the Europa League next season.
But regardless of the fixtures, what will most importantly decide Liverpool's position at the end of the season will be their own performance in the rest of the matches. Another draw or a loss will effectively seal their Europa League spot.
So Rafa has huge responsibility thrust onto him to motivate and guide his players for the rest of the season. The performance of Liverpool's influential players like Gerrard, Torres, and Kuyt will also play a vital role in Liverpool's challenge for a fourth place finish.
Hence there is still chance for Liverpool to claw their way back to the top four position this season. But it will require a Herculean effort on their part.
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