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Football can be a funny game.

One minute everything could be going according to plan, but yet it can change in a heartbeat.

Liverpool have reached a turning point in hunt for Champions League returnThat best describes Liverpool’s season thus far.

The club looked destined for a title challenge heading into 2017 after putting in a number of memorable performances earlier in the season. They were blowing most teams away with ease, but the minute 2017 came around, everything took a turn for a worst.

The Reds have only notched one league win in 2017 and with that being the case, the dream to claim their first ever Premier League title has come to an end. They were also knocked out of the FA Cup and the League Cup, which leaves them playing only for the top four.

With Liverpool’s situation being what it is, the club will be putting everything into getting a Champions League spot for next season to boost its credentials in the transfer market and get back in Europe’s elite where it belongs.

The aim at the beginning of the season would have been to get into the top four. Winning it would have been a bonus, so the club can still reach its main target of the Champions League. There is a bit of pressure on Jurgen Klopp to get this side within the top four when you consider the campaign they were having until 2017 came around.

It looked almost guaranteed that the Reds would be a top four side, but failing to have any real impact in 2017 currently sees Liverpool in fifth – only one point outside the top four. Ultimately, for this season to be a success, a top four finish is a must for Liverpool.

It would not be the end of the world by any stretch of the imagination if they missed out, but Liverpool need to get themselves back in Europe’s top flight on a regular basis. The club has dearly missed the competition for so many reasons.

The question on everyone’s lips at the minute is this: Can Liverpool actually make the top four after what has been a disastrous 2017? The answer has to be yes.

This side has shown over the course of this season it is more than good enough to clinch a spot in the top four. What will give Klopp and his team hope is their performance against Tottenham in the previous league game.

The energy and pace the Reds were playing with at the beginning of the season seemed to return for that 90 minutes. A lot of that came from Sadio Mane, who returned from the African Cup of Nations, and rediscovered that form he was showing before he left. But the others also lifted which will give Klopp the confidence this side can go on a run from now until the end of the season. The win against Spurs could really be the turning point.

With the Reds not having any FA Cup football to take part in last weekend, Klopp took his players to La Manga in Spain. It is almost like a second preseason where they will re-energise and prepare for an assault on the top four from now until May. The trip could be the difference.

Klopp is certainly not hiding from the fact the Champions League is what he and the club need. In a recent interview with the Liverpool Echo, Klopp has stated that the Europa League is strong, but the club needs Champions League football.

“Things that I don’t have, I don’t miss,” Klopp said at the La Manga training base. “But of course I enjoyed being in that competition a lot and that’s where we want to be.”

“To achieve that we need to qualify. We didn’t qualify this season. We are working to go there as soon as possible.”

“We saw this week again (last week) what a strong competition the Europa League is too. Strong teams, intense games. We enjoyed it last season, well we did until the last match day! We had some wonderful games in that competition.”

“But of course the Champions League is THE competition. We want to be part of it. To get there we have to win a few games.”

Starting at Leicester Monday night, the Reds need to continue where they left off against Tottenham. It now is all about putting a string of wins together to gain a spot in Europe’s elite.

Liverpool are capable, but they will need to be at their very best with many other clubs fighting for the same spot.

Originally published at outside90.com

Post written by Lachlan Ballingall, Twitter: @L_Ballingall
for Outside 90, Blog: outside90.com, Twitter: @Outside90

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