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John Aldridge: Why the football Gods may want Liverpool in Europa League

Dublin final in 2024 would be a magical occasion if Liverpool are there

Klopp© Getty Images

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 04: Juergen Klopp, Manager of Liverpool, reacts prior to the Premier League match between Chelsea FC and Liverpool FC at Stamford Bridge on April 04, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)© Getty Images

Liverpool's Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk (3R) sees this header blocked during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on April 30, 2023. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)© AFP via Getty Images

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - MAY 03: Mohamed Salah of Liverpool during the Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Fulham FC at Anfield on May 03, 2023 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by James Gill - Danehouse/Getty Images)© Getty Images

John Aldridge

THE football Gods might just have intervened to define Liverpool’s fate for next season

Manchester United are doing their best to open the door for Liverpool to get back into the top four mix and their defeat at West Ham on Sunday night certainly keeps things interesting.

Yet unless United completely blow up in the final weeks of this strange season, it still looks like the only prize up for grabs now is a place in the Europa League.

Failure to qualify for the Champions League will be a hammer blow for Liverpool. I just don’t see Newcastle and Manchester United dropping enough points to give the teams below them a chance to overhaul them now.

The games have run out and for a variety of reasons, Klopp has seen his side not do enough over the course of this season to justify a top-four finish.

Yet, when I look towards the prospect of Thursday-night football and seeing Liverpool back in the second-tier UEFA competition, one silver lining shines through.

Next season’s Europa League final is in Dublin, and can you imagine the scenes if Liverpool are one of the teams in it.

We all know the fan base Liverpool have in Ireland and if they were in a major European final at the Aviva Stadium, it would be something very special.

The Irish people have always been amazing to me and the proudest moment of my career as a player was pulling on that green jersey.

I remember the scenes around Dublin after our appearances at the 1988 European Championships and the 1990 World Cup. We will see something similar if Liverpool are in the Europa League final in Dublin.

The scenes we have witnessed as they made it through to Champions League finals in recent years have been incredible.

Before the 2019 final, the amount of fans that descended on Madrid was remarkable. Then you see the scenes when they returned home with the trophy. It was just incredible.

If Liverpool got to a big final in Dublin, it would be a very special moment for their Irish fans, and the Aviva would be turned into Anfield for the night.

Let’s be honest here, the words I’m writing in this column are not what I expected to be dreaming up at the back end of this season.

While it won’t be ideal to play Europa League football next season, a club of Liverpool’s stature needs to be in European competition and this is the best they can get now.

It’s not a competition big clubs want to be in, but it can get exciting when you reach the quarter-finals and semi-finals, and I’d expect Liverpool to be in the mix at the business end if they are in the Europa League next season.

It’s also a great chance for young players to get a chance to experience European football and those special nights at Anfield, so you have to go with it and make the most of it.

The harsh reality is that after going so close to winning every trophy possible last season, Liverpool have gone backwards in recent months. Not playing in the Champions League next season will confirm that.

Liverpool should sign Declan Rice

They have picked things up a little in the last few weeks, but the game against Fulham at Anfield on Wednesday night was another one of those matches that left you confused and a little bemused.

Finding a way to win when you are not at your best is the sign of a good team – and while that’s what Liverpool have done of late, they have lost their way badly all over the park.

You look at the opening 20 minutes against Spurs last Sunday when they were at their best again.

The same was true in the 7-0 mauling of Manchester United, but they don’t seem to be able to sustain that kind of form for whatever reason.

They have struggled to get out of second gear in too many games this season. You look around the team and something is missing.

Mohamed Salah, Luis Diaz and Darwin Nunez have a lot of quality in the forward line, but the fluidity you need to succeed is not there right now.

There have been far too many defensive mistakes from proven performers, and we have spoken time and again about the midfield issues this season.

All Liverpool can do between now and the end of the campaign is cement that Europa League spot and just keep picking up points in case Manchester United blow up and lose a run of matches.

We can talk about what needs to happen in the transfer market when the season is over, but the end-of-year report is not going to make for good reading, that’s for sure.

You are struggling to pick out a player of the year for Liverpool, because everyone has been below their best for long periods and the campaign is ending with a whimper.

Everyone associated with the club is disappointed by what we have seen, but maybe a date in the Europa League final in Dublin will be a measure of compensation a little over a year from now.

Wouldn’t that be great!

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