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kop flops Liverpool have no excuses - they're just not good enough to claim a top-four spot

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Liverpool's James Milner (centre) and team-mates appear dejected after the draw with Newcastle

Liverpool's James Milner (centre) and team-mates appear dejected after the draw with Newcastle

Liverpool's James Milner (centre) and team-mates appear dejected after the draw with Newcastle

LIVERPOOL’S top-four rivals presented them with a chance to get back in the mix to qualify for next season’s Champions League – but they confirmed yesterday that they are not good enough to take it.

Newcastle’s last-minute equaliser in the 1-1 draw at Anfield was a hammer blow to Liverpool’s top-four push and I believe their hope of getting fourth place has now gone.

Jurgen Klopp’s side have Manchester United to play away from home next weekend and, on current form, they won’t win at Old Trafford. If they don’t, that’ll finish them off.

Their rivals have enough games in hand and are in better form, so this horrible season for Klopp will now have a disastrous conclusion.

They can’t have any complaints because Chelsea, Tottenham and West Ham opened the door for them to get a top-four spot they barely deserve.

Yet, what we saw against Newcastle was another snapshot of why Klopp’s team of champions have fallen from grace in alarming fashion over the last few months, with the strikers letting him down once again.

He started with Mo Salah, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Diogo Jota – and that level of firepower should have been more than enough to see off Newcastle.

When Salah opened the scoring in the third minute, it ought to have paved the way for a comfortable victory, because Liverpool created enough chances to win three football matches yesterday.

They had no fewer than nine shots on target and a lot of them were scoreable chances, too, so they should have been four or five ahead and the game won long before the end.

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Liverpool's Mohamed Salah celebrates scoring the opening goal

Liverpool's Mohamed Salah celebrates scoring the opening goal

Liverpool's Mohamed Salah celebrates scoring the opening goal

Yet, as I watched the clock tick down to the final five minutes and it was still only 1-0, I knew what was coming.

If you don’t take your opportunities, the opposition will get a chance in the final few minutes – and Newcastle had two big moments.

Liverpool got lucky when Callum Wilson’s equaliser was cancelled out by a VAR decision that was very harsh on the Newcastle forward.

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At that point, Klopp should have made a substitution to try and take the sting out of the game and bolster his defensive line, with victory in this game vital to keep the season alive.

Instead, he left things as they were and Newcastle got their equaliser with the last kick of the game.

No one is surprised by Liverpool’s failings at this stage, but it doesn’t make it any easier to watch for the millions of fans around the world.

This team look a million miles away from the side that were on the brink of winning the Premier League title at this stage last season, with the same set of players losing their way and, seemingly, unable to get back on track.

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Newcastle United's Joe Willock celebrates scoring the Toon's equaliser

Newcastle United's Joe Willock celebrates scoring the Toon's equaliser

Newcastle United's Joe Willock celebrates scoring the Toon's equaliser

The forward line is now the biggest concern for Klopp, and he needs to do something about it.

Liverpool have somehow gone from having three of the most feared strikers in world football to having a forward line that looks nervous, edgy and keeps snatching at chances in front of goal.

The confidence that was rushing through their veins when times were good has evaporated. You look at Salah, Mane and, especially, Firmino and wonder whether they can get back to their brilliant best.

I have said before that Firmino is no longer producing the goods to justify his place in the team. If ever a game highlighted Liverpool’s desperation to sign a top-quality goalscorer, we saw it yesterday.

Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Haaland would be the player I would go after this summer, but we don’t know whether Liverpool could get close to paying for that transfer unless they sell Salah or one of their other big stars.

Not being in the Champions League will be a big blow when it comes to attracting a player of the calibre of Haaland (inset), but something needs to be done to get this team back on track.

Maybe the upset caused by Liverpool’s decision to sign up for the horrible European Super League will inspire the owners to spend a bit of money this summer to breathe new life into this team, because that’s what is needed.

This isn’t a blip in form, a loss of form for a few players. It is much more than that – and Klopp doesn’t seem to have the answers with this set of players anymore.

This is a sustained run of poor form over four long months. It has been sheer agony to watch for all Liverpool fans.

Anfield’s empty stands have witnessed a series of horror shows since the dawn of 2021. What was working so well for Klopp last season is suddenly malfunctioning.

He likes to play a high defensive line and while it has always given the opposition a chance to get in behind the Liverpool defence, it allowed the team to press the opposition and give the forward players a chance to shine.

When Salah and Mane were firing 20 and 30 goals a season each, it didn’t matter if the odd goal was conceded, but that isn’t happening now.

While Thiago Alcantara was excellent and Liverpool played well enough to merit a win, the final few minutes showed how nervy they have become since they lost the winning habit.

The opposition sensed the tension rising and, to their credit, Steve Bruce’s men were good enough to take their chance when it came.

That late goal was a sickener for Klopp and his players, especially after losing so many games at Anfield recently.

Their final two home matches – against Southampton and Crystal Palace – might look easy on paper, but they can’t be relied upon to beat anyone at Anfield.

That’s why they won’t finish in the top four.

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