Champions League qualification has to be Liverpool’s priority

A season without Champions League football has been a rarity for Liverpool in recent years and finishing in the top four in 2023-23 has to be the priority for Jurgen Klopp and his players.

Not since Klopp’s first full year in charge, in 2016-17, have the Reds been missing from Europe’s premier club competition and that season also saw no European football at all at Anfield.

This time around, the Reds do have the Europa League to factor into their plans but everything must be focused on getting back into the Champions League, even if it means sacrificing the cup competitions due to the size of the squad.

Odds-on for top-four finish

The Reds are a general 4/7 shot to finish in the top four this season and they certainly should be considered as odds-on contenders to qualify for the Champions League. The English Premier League betting odds have Liverpool as 6/1 third favourites to win the title, behind Manchester City and Arsenal, while they are 11/4 in the market without the reigning champions.

There is no reason why the Reds cannot be the team to push City the closest again this season following their rivalry in recent years but the key to both that and qualifying for the Champions League is a strong start to the campaign.

Winning just two of the opening eight Premier League games last season had the Reds on the back foot right from the start and they need to repeat the start to the campaign from 2016-17 when they were last absent from the Champions League. On that occasion, the Reds lost just one of their opening 13 league games, winning nine, to lay the platform for the season. There was a stuttering run of form in the January and February of that campaign but one defeat in the last 12 games saw the Reds edge out Arsenal by a point for fourth place.

The 11-game unbeaten run to end last season, including the seven-match winning streak, demonstrated the blueprint for how the Reds can play this season.

Klopp may not have been as active in the transfer market as most of his fellow Premier League managers this summer, and has expressed his concerns about the transfer window closing in Saudi Arabia after it has in England, but he is hard going to be looking enviously at the attacking talent that sits in other squads.

Wealth of attacking talent

Yes, Roberto Firmino’s experience will be missed, and Jordan Henderson and James Milner have also moved on, but the quality Klopp can call on in attack will only fuel expectations of a top-four finish, especially with the players brought in over the last 12 months having had time to fully adapt and settle.

Add in the fact Luis Diaz missed six months of last season, the potential of Diogo Jota to always make an impact and the goalscoring reliability of Mohamed Salah and it is hard to see how the Reds do not have the firepower to crack the top four. Virgil van Dijk should also be further emboldened after being named the new captain following Henderson’s exit.

All in all, everything is in place for a top-four finish at the very least and there should be a laser focus on achieving that aim given the Champions League memories that have been provided in recent years.