Why Liverpool Could Finish Above Manchester United And Qualify For The Champions League
Liverpool went a step closer to realise their UEFA Champions League qualification dream when they defeated Watford FC 1-0 at the Vicarage Road on Monday night, courtesy of an Emre Can stunner.
The win saw Jurgen Klopp’s men establish a 3 point lead on 4th placed Manchester City in the Premier League table and a 4 point gap on Manchester United who sit 5th in the standings. While both the Manchester clubs still have a game in hand, the win on Monday gave Liverpool the edge in the race for the top-four race after both City and United had dropped points at the weekend.
Sixth-placed Arsenal, who sit 9 points behind the Reds, have 2 games in hand over them, but after a demoralizing defeat to Tottenham Hotspur in the North London derby, they aren’t expected to be a threat.
With just 3 more weeks of football left in the Premier League, Liverpool put themselves in a strong position to qualify for the next season’s European showpiece event.
Easier Run In
Liverpool, in their final 3 games, will play just one team from the top half of the table when they take on Southampton at Anfield this coming weekend. After this, they will be playing against a struggling West Ham United at the Olympic Stadium and the final league match is at home to relegation-threatened Middlesbrough.
Manchester City too, have a fairly easy run-in to the end of the season as they will be playing 3 home games on the trot, hosting relegation battlers Crystal Palace, last season’s champions Leicester City and mid-table side West Bromwich Albion, before they finish the season away at Watford. While the games against Palace and Leicester could prove to be tricky, City are expected to have a smooth sailing.
Manchester United, on the other hand, have been dealt the toughest draw as they will play two top-six sides before the end of the season. Jose Mourinho’s men will have to take two trips to North London as they take on Arsenal at the Emirates before going to the White Hart Lane to face title challengers Tottenham Hotspur.
In between those games, they will also have to contend with UEFA Europa League semi-finals as well. They will then take on EFL Cup finalists Southampton away, before ending the season at home against Crystal Palace.
Looking at the fixtures, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that Liverpool have the easiest of the runs towards the end of the season, which should put them in a strong position to finish in the top-four.
Manchester United’s Injuries And Fixture Congestion
Manchester United have been dealt with a huge spate of injuries over the past month or so that has made them short on numbers.
Chris Smalling and Phil Jones haven’t played for over a month now, while fellow defender Marcos Rojo and leading goal-scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic, both injured their anterior cruciate ligaments and will be needing surgery, which has seen them ruled out for the season. And more recently, youth prospect Timothy Fosu-Mensah and the only fit as of then centre-back in the squad, Eric Bailly, joined the list of casualties at the Old Trafford.
As many as 7 first-team members being unavailable for the most crucial period of the season does come as a huge blow to the Red Devils.
Liverpool too have their fair share of injuries to deal with as their top scorer Sadio Mane has been ruled out for the season and captain Jordan Henderson too, remains doubtful to feature until the end of the campaign. On Monday night, Klopp lost star attacker Philippe Coutinho to an injury. However, that is not expected to be a serious one.
But the fact that United will be playing as many as 6 games in the space of 16 days, starting from the first-leg of the Europa League semi-finals against Celta Vigo on Thursday, leaves them in a worse position than the Reds who will be playing just 3 matches (and Mourinho will make sure he points at that in all of his press conferences from now until the end of the season).
With the squad stretched extremely thin and the number of fixtures that they will have to play, Mourinho’s men are bound to feel the effects of it, which will aid Liverpool in confirming their status as a Champions League club for the upcoming season.