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exclusive Failure to secure a top-four finish will end Klopp’s hopes of signing new players this summer


Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp will need to lift his players out of their current slump in form

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp will need to lift his players out of their current slump in form

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp will need to lift his players out of their current slump in form

LIVERPOOL’S train crash of a season needs to get back on track at Sheffield United tonight and the time has come for Jurgen Klopp to show some invention.

Every week seems to throw up another disaster for Liverpool, and this week has been no different.

The news that captain Jordan Henderson will miss most of the remaining games of this season with a groin injury was a hammer blow to a side already crippled by injuries to senior players.


Alisson Becker's father died tragically

Alisson Becker's father died tragically

Alisson Becker's father died tragically

Then the news came through that Alisson Becker’s father had died in tragic circumstances in Brazil.

It just added to the suspicion that there is a curse on Liverpool this season.

Klopp and Alisson have to make a joint decision on whether he plays against the Blades tonight, and it may be that he wants to play in tribute to his father.

I found it hard to play again after the Hillsborough disaster in 1989, but getting out there and playing can be the best way to honour those you have lost. Alisson will be admired by all in football if he plays at Bramall Lane this evening.

No team in world football would be able to cope with the collection of calamities that have hit Liverpool this season, but Klopp and his team need to find a way to get out of the campaign with a top-four finish.

Liverpool were rightly lauded when they won all those trophies over the last couple of years, but harsh truths need to be delivered after the events of the last two months.

They are champions who have fallen from the top of the table in mid-December and now find themselves out of the title race and struggling to finish in the Premier League’s top four.

Jamie Carragher came under fire from some Liverpool supporters after being critical of Klopp’s team in last weekend’s Merseyside derby defeat against Everton, but former players like Carra and myself didn’t want this to happen – and we take absolutely no pleasure in questioning the team. But they cannot be immune to criticism as this crisis will cause lasting damage – unless it’s halted quickly.

It’s not going to be easy, they have not come up with any solutions to problems – and Carra was right to suggest changes are needed.

I stated in my Sunday World column in mid-December that Liverpool would not retain the title unless Klopp was allowed to sign top defenders to fill the void left by Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez’s season-ending injuries.

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Yet the issues that have ripped through this team are much deeper than missing a couple of top-class defenders, with the manner of this collapse leaving plenty of questions to answer.

Liverpool head to Bramall Lane tonight desperately needing a win to get some confidence back and to keep, what I believe, to be their fading hopes of a top-four finish alive.


Liverpool's Thiago Alcantara has struggled with form

Liverpool's Thiago Alcantara has struggled with form

Liverpool's Thiago Alcantara has struggled with form

If you were asking me to pick a top four right now, it would be Man City, Man United, Leicester and Chelsea.

The order of the final two might switch as, I suspect, Chelsea will finish the season strongly, but it is hard to make an argument to say Liverpool will get back on track, given what we have seen.

Since they beat Spurs 2-1 to go three points clear at the top of the table in mid-December, Liverpool have taken two points from their last six games at Anfield.

Defeats against Burnley, Brighton, Man City and Everton have rocked Klopp’s team to its core, but the alarming point for me is the lack of ideas that they appear to have to change the momentum back in their favour.

All four of those games followed a similar pattern. If the away team score first, they are finding it far too easy to get men behind the ball and halt Liverpool’s attacking ambition.

A defence stripped of all four central-defensive options was always going to be a weak spot, but other areas of the team have also thrown up huge concerns.

Alisson has been at fault for conceding some horrible goals, while the midfield has been thrown into disarray with Henderson being asked to drop into defence.

Thiago Alcantara has struggled to settle into the team and the front three of Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino have been horribly off the boil.

All in all, it adds up to a nightmare that leads me to conclude Liverpool will NOT finish in the Premier League’s top four this season, and that would be a disaster for the club.

We all know the club don’t have much money to spend because they were very reluctant to sign defenders in the January transfer window, so imagine what will happen if they lose the money from the Champions League next season?

Klopp may not be given any money to spend this summer. In that scenario, who knows what might happen.

So, I want to see Liverpool’s players and their brilliant manager showing something different against Sheffield United tonight, whether that’s a change in formation or a shift in approach.

Klopp could look to play a 4-2-3-1 formation that would offer more protection to a second-rate central defensive line and give Thiago a chance to influence the game in a more advanced role.

He could also look to play a more cautious game, in a bid to protect the defence, keep clean sheets and hope to nick goals on the breakaway.

It’s not Klopp or Liverpool’s way, but this is an emergency that needs to be addressed immediately, as it’s long-since spiralled out of control.

Sheffield United are fighting for their lives and need a win to keep their faint survival hopes alive, so that could help Liverpool.

What’s clear right now is all Liverpool’s belief has drained away and they are almost in shock from what has happened to them. They look confused as they try to solve the problems coming their way.

Yet, this is not a moment for self-pity or excuses as Liverpool need to find a way to scrape into fourth place this season – and they have to start putting things right tonight.

Failure to secure a top-four finish would almost certainly end Klopp’s hopes of signing new players next summer, as the club’s owners would have to trim what is already a modest transfer budget.

So, the future of this great Liverpool team is on the line over the next few weeks and they need to get back to winning ways quickly or face the prospect of a bleak future.

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