John Aldridge: Why I’m not confident Liverpool will win top four race
Away form is not good enough to compete for Champions League place
THE next three games should be make-or-break Liverpool's hopes of salvaging something from this season - but nothing is predictable in this strange season.
An away match against Manchester City is on the agenda of Jurgen Klopp's team next Saturday and the timing of this match is far from ideal.
These two sides have been battling it out for the title for the last few years, so I'm not sure who decided it was a good idea to schedule what could have been a crucial showdown for a lunchtime slot right after the international break.
Neither team would want this match next Saturday, but Liverpool have been dealt a particularly bad hand here as they back that up with games against Chelsea and Arsenal.
And after witnessing their abject performance in defeat at Bournemouth in their last match, I have very little confidence in Klopp's side winning either of the away games against City and Chelsea.
The 1-0 defeat at Bournemouth summed up their misery on the road as they have won just three games away from Anfield in the Premier League all season.
They have scored just 13 goals from their 15 away games and have turned in performances that are impossible to fathom.
We all know what Klopp's team are capable of and we have seen flashes of it at Anfield this season, but I gave up trying to work out what has gone wrong with them long ago.
What happens next is anyone's guess, but we could reach a point of no return very quickly.
If they were to continue their away day misery with defeats against Man City and Chelsea, they could be at the win-or-bust stage by the time they welcome table topping Arsenal to Anfield on April 9th.
That said, it is impossible to pick where this story is going.
Tottenham have had fourth place in their hands for a long time now, but they seem determined to self-implode rather than grasp the nettle.
Manager Antonio Conte had to go after his angry rant following the 3-3 draw at Southampton last weekend, as he threw his entire team under the bus in front of the media.
He clearly wanted out of the job and his press conference rant was an attempt to get sacked, with the decision confirmed on Sunday night and an interim manager put in place.
It means Spurs are a side who could go either way in the final quarter of this season, as their players could turn against Conte or go out and try and prove him wrong.
Newcastle are also in this mix as they have pieced together a strong season under boss Eddie Howe, but they lack a goal scorer to win them tight matches that will cost them.
Liverpool should be out of this battle for a top four finish as their away record this season is on par with teams battling relegation, yet their opponents continue to give them hope despite some alarming warning signs.
If the Liverpool that battered Manchester United 7-0 turn up for the final 12 games of the season, they could get back on track.
Yet if their away side from 2023 continues to stagger through games, they have no chance.
In my mind, Klopp needs to be ruthless from this point forward and only pick players who are hungry to deliver.
Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are among those leaving the club this summer, so I wouldn't have them in the team for these final dozen matches.
Stick with players who have a future at the club as they should have a hunger and desire to play in the Champions League next season.
If Mo Salah is misfiring and Luiz Diaz and Diogo Jota are fit, rotate the forward line and see if a different combination clicks.
This is not a time for sentiment or trying to stand by players as results are needed and a top four finish is a necessity.
With the contenders for fourth place seemingly incapable of finding consistency, a winning run of five or six games for Spurs, Newcastle or Liverpool could be decisive.
And while the visit of Tottenham to Anfield on the final day of April has been highlighted as a potential top four decider, no one can say with any certainty where this story is headed.
If I'm pushed to pick the team that finishes fourth right now, I wouldn't go for Liverpool.
On paper, they should have enough to finish ahead of Spurs and Newcastle, but that counts for nothing this season.
The rot in away matches set in long ago and I don't see Klopp solving it with this set of players.
Never mind the next two away matches against City and an improving Chelsea, as I wouldn't be too confident of Liverpool beating Leeds, West Ham, Leicester or Southampton in their other remaining away games.
They probably need to pick up at least 12 points from those match and win most of their home matches to steal a top four finish and that's a tough ask for this team.
A successful end to this traumatic season could be crucial when it comes to the squad overhaul Klopp clearly needs to instigate this summer.
They are being given every chance by the teams around them in the Premier League to reach that target, but I don't have any confidence in them taking advantage of the open goal they have been presented with.
LIVERPOOL'S REMAINING GAMES
Man City (a) - April 1st
Chelsea (a) - April 4th
Arsenal (h) - April 9th
Leeds (a) - April 17th
Nottingham Forest (h) - April 22nd
West Ham (a) - April 26th
Tottenham (h) - April 30th
Brentford (h) - May 6th
Leicester (a) - May 13th
Aston Villa (h) - May 20th
Southampton (a) - May 28th
TOTTENHAM'S REMAINING GAMES
Everton (a) - April 3rd
Brighton (h) - April 8th
Bournemouth (h) - April 15th
Newcastle (a) - April 23rd
Manchester United (h) - April 27th
Liverpool (a) - April 30th
Crystal Palace (h) - May 6th
Aston Villa (a) - May 13th
Brentford (h) - May 20th
Leeds (a) - May 28th
NEWCASTLE'S REMAINING GAMES
Manchester United (h) - April 2nd
West Ham (a) - April 5th
Brentford (a) - April 8th
Aston Villa (a) - April 15th
Tottenham (h) April 23rd
Everton (a) - April 27th
Southampton (h) - April 30th
Arsenal (h) - May 6th
Leeds (a) - May 13th
Leicester (h) - May 20th
Chelsea (a) - May 28th
EXCLUSIVE | Kinahan cartel links help East Belfast UVF ‘spread wings’ into international drug trade
'violent disorder' | Brothers Glen Ward and Eric O’Driscoll sent for trial over alleged Finglas brawl
Recovery | Doireann Garrihy’s boyfriend Mark Mehigan opens up about his struggles with alcoholism
LATEST | Kinahan cartel gang boss Liam Byrne says he will fight extradition back to UK for trial
FREAK INJURY | ‘I see the funny side now’ – man breaks back after mum’s gravestone falls on top of him
ring girl | Former Miss Ireland announces she got engaged in stunning Santorini
SHocking | Boy violently attacked by gang of youths in park - police investigating footage
'lethal' | ‘It was crazy’ – Dublin homeless café manager describes shocking effects of ‘liquid ecstasy’
'most gifted' | Teen footballer killed in jet ski accident was ‘true hero on the pitch’, funeral told
'vacuous vanity' | Love Island is a ‘better looking Daíl’ with betrayal and backstabbing