Let me begin by being clear: This is a long shot. A REALLY long shot. A lot of stars have to align to make this happen. And as a Liverpool fan, I’m not especially anxious or worried about it. I actually subscribe to the argument that one season without European football wouldn’t hurt us and might actually help, allowing time to rebuild and challenge for the league title (the current Holy Grail for LFC fans) and domestic cups. And given that Liverpool actually sat 20th in the table at one point this season and genuinely feared a possible relegation battle at the beginning of January, a solid 6th place finish should not be looked on as a failure.
But Liverpool qualifying for European football next season is still mathematically possible if nothing else, so let’s take a look at how it can be done.
First and foremost, Liverpool absolutely must win all of its remaining six fixtures, and not drop a single point. I know what you’re thinking: That’s never going to happen. It is a hard thing to ask, but Liverpool is actually one of the few teams that seem to be growing and improving and coming together as one unit. They haven’t found the level of consistency that they need yet, but recent performances suggest that they do have the talent. If Liverpool can pull it together, they would finish the season on 66 points.
Let’s look at my chart to determine how it may be possible:
Then to finish 5th and qualify for Europa League, just ONE of three things needs to happen.
Let’s start with the LEAST likely: Chelsea needs to drop 14 of its remaining 21 points, which means drawing or losing its remaining seven fixtures (editor’s note: Chelsea beat West Brom today so the Blues now have six fixtures remaining). There is no way I’d ever put money on this, but something is terribly wrong at that club and they’ve gone on bad runs of form already this season. This is a team that is fraying and falling apart. While there is no reason to think that they will go on a run quite that bad, I’m still not sure many among us would be too shocked to see it happen.
The second, only slightly more likely, option for Liverpool is to see Man City drop 9 of its remaining 18 points. Given the quality in the side and the relatively easy run they have, this should never happen. But if Tevez is indeed out for the season, who knows? They always look poor (ironically) when he’s not playing. Like Chelsea they aren’t the most unified side, and while not likely, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them fall apart.
Finally, Liverpool’s most likely option, in my opinion, is for Tottenham to drop 8 of its remaining 21 points. And unlike the other two options that require some stretching of the imagination, this scenario is actually not hard to see. They still have to play away to Chelsea, Man City, and Liverpool, and to host Arsenal. They also face a resurgent West Brom and the ever-unpredictable Blackpool, who thumped them 3-1 when they met in February. If injuries and fatigue catch up with them in the run in, they could have problems, and dropping 8 points would see them finish below Liverpool on goal difference.
(The goal differences between Liverpool and both Chelsea and Man City are likely to be too great for them to finish level on points, so they would need 65 to finish below Liverpool.)
While each of those scenarios are tall orders individually, if a miracle occurs and TWO of them happen, Liverpool could actually finish 4th and make the Champion’s League next season.
As I stated in the beginning, Europe next season is a long shot for Liverpool, and I’m not getting my hopes up or losing sleep over it one way or the other, but after the storms we’ve walked through this season, it is nice to hear the sweet sliver song of a lark in the distance – however faintly.