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european dream I can't believe that Liverpool are still in with a chance of making the top four

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Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp congratulates Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino after victory over United

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp congratulates Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino after victory over United

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp congratulates Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino after victory over United

WE saw a glimpse of the old Liverpool as they beat Manchester United 4-2 on Thursday night – and now Jurgen Klopp’s men have to make that win mean something.

Amazingly, victories in their final three games against West Brom today, Burnley on Wednesday and Crystal Palace at Anfield next Sunday may be enough to secure Liverpool a top-four finish in the Premier League – and they have to take this unexpected lifeline.

I use the word amazingly because I was not alone in thinking Liverpool had no chance of a top-four finish a few days ago after a disastrous run of form in the opening months of 2021.

After watching them fluff their lines time and again, I would not have backed Arsenal to be the team to blow the top-four race wide open. Yet they did that with their 1-0 win against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.

It meant that Liverpool had a chance to get themselves back in the top-four mix by beating United, and you could sense they knew what was on the line in the re-arranged game at Old Trafford.

The edginess and nervousness that has eaten into Liverpool’s aura in recent months was replaced with a more clinical approach.

Even after they went behind early, you could sense they were ready to strike back.

The key for Klopp is getting his forward players firing again. Even though the defensive injuries have been a big story of this Liverpool season, they have created enough chances to win the matches that have slipped away.

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Sadio Mane was unhappy with Jurgen Klopp

Sadio Mane was unhappy with Jurgen Klopp

Sadio Mane was unhappy with Jurgen Klopp

Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and, especially, Roberto Firmino have missed so many sitters in front of goal this season that I wondered whether it was too late to ask Jurgen to give me a chance to dust down my boots and have a go at making a comeback!

OK, it never got that bad, but it was close at times.

What was different against United was the attacking end of the team functioned as we know they can. Indeed, if they had taken all of the chances they created, they could have left Old Trafford with a much bigger margin of victory.

Salah is top of the Premier League scoring charts after his goal at Old Trafford, but he could have had 40 goals to his credit this season if he had taken his chances and the same goes for the out-of-sorts Mane (inset).

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The difference the other night was the three strikers Klopp picked all scored, with his decision to play Diogo Jota in place of Mane proving to be the right one.

Mane showed how unhappy he was to have been left out when he refused to shake hands with Klopp at the final whistle, but he can have no complaints.

Sadio has slipped well below his best this season and Klopp had every right to make that call, which was justified as Jota scored a fine goal and looked a threat all night.

Now Klopp will be hoping Mane uses that anger in the right way and starts playing as we know he can in these final three matches, as this top-four battle could come down to goal difference in the final analysis.

What Liverpool cannot afford to do is look too far ahead, as one slip now and this final chance to qualify for the Champions League will be gone.

They must get the job done against already-relegated West Brom today and every chance needs to be taken, with goals just as valuable as the points in a top-four race as close as this.

Then they need to fend off what will be a physical approach from Burnley at Turf Moor, where the novice centre-back pairing of Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams should be well equipped to deal with their aerial bombardment.

After that, it could come down to beating Palace at Anfield next Sunday, when 10,000 fans will be back in the stadium for what could be a surprisingly upbeat end to what has been a miserable season.

The note of caution I would add here is this; Liverpool have lost games when we have least expected it this season and their next two opponents were pivotal in their fall from grace at the top of the table.

West Brom started Liverpool’s slump in many ways by picking up a draw at Anfield over the Christmas period, then Burnley ended their 68-game unbeaten home run a few weeks later.

Those results confirm that nothing can be taken for granted, but it if comes down to beating a Palace side Liverpool hammered 7-0 back in December to qualify for the Champions League, they should get the job done.

I can barely believe I’m writing this as Liverpool’s top-four hopes looked forlorn a few days ago.

Now they have to prove they are good enough to step through it.

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