Gary Neville: Liverpool may be the weakest of the top six contenders, but they could still finish fourth
Gary Neville believes Liverpool may be the weakest of the six teams challenging for a top four finish in the Premier League, but he has backed Jurgen Klopp’s side to secure a prized placed in next season’s Champions League.
Liverpool staggered to an unconvincing win against Burnley on Sunday to extend their advantage over Arsenal and Manchester United in the push for a top four spot, yet both Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho’s sides have games in game on the Reds.
The uncertain form shown by Liverpool in the first two and a half months of 2017 does not bode well for their top four ambitions, yet Neville suggests what appears to be a favourable run-in of matches against the lower ranked teams in the Premier League could help their cause.
“You’d have to say, at this moment in time, if every team had the same games towards the end of the season, I think Liverpool could be in trouble,” Neville told Sky Sports.
“They could potentially be the weakest in some ways, but the fact they’ve got a really good run does give them an advantage to get in there. But it’s so tight and it changes week by week.”
“We’ve seen some incredible performances from them in big games where teams have come at them and are open and expansive. But when Liverpool play a team who sit back and go into their shape, they don’t seem to have a Plan B.
“This current Liverpool are held back by the fact they haven’t got the strongest squad, but they have been helped this season by the fact they’ve got a good programme.
“They don’t have a Plan B in terms of being able to control the game in a different style, and when teams don’t allow them to use their energy to press they’re far less effective.
“They have a great chance of getting into the top four, but they do have to overcome this style problem.”
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Liverpool legend John Aldridge offers an alternative view of the Reds end of season run-in, as he suggests games against Crystal Palace, Watford, Middlesbrough and a few more struggling sides may not the a good omen for Klopp’s team.
“I keep hearing that Liverpool still have a great chance of finishing in the top four in the Premier League because they have an easy run of fixtures at the end of the season – but that ignores the reality of what we have seen over the last two years,” stated Aldo.
“Klopp’s side seem to do well against the better teams in the league, but they have consistently failed to perform at their best far too often against teams in the bottom half of the table.
“They have lost to Burnley, Bournemouth, Swansea, Hull and Leicester this season and every time, the same script was played out in the game. Liverpool had all of the ball, they were picked apart on the breakaway and were beaten by teams showing more energy and commitment.
“Klopp needs to solve this problem by signing some more robust players next summer, but for now he needs to find a way to stop the bleeding before this season ends in disappointment.
“Liverpool have Bournemouth, Stoke, West Brom, Crystal Palace, Watford, Southampton, West Ham and Middlesbrough on their schedule in the last eight games of this campaign.
“On paper, they look like winnable games, but the more realistic view must be that they are precisely the kind of teams they struggle to beat.”