Liverpool: Do Premier League defending champions deserve Champions League place next year?

Joe Willock
How damaging could Newcastle’s late equaliser be for Liverpool’s hopes?

“If you deserve, you deserve it. I didn’t see us today playing like we deserve Champions League next year.”

Will Liverpool, runaway Premier League champions last year and Champions League winners in 2019, really miss out on a place in the competition altogether next season?

Joe Willock’s 95th-minute equaliser for Newcastle at Anfield in a 1-1 draw made it four dropped points in a week for Jurgen Klopp’s side, with the manager questioning whether they merit another seat at the top table.

The Reds lie sixth, a point behind both Chelsea and West Ham, who meet at London Stadium later on Saturday.

“We have another five games and we will see. We learn or we don’t play Champions League, that’s it,” said Klopp.

You’re supposed to be at home…

Premier League form table in 2021
Liverpool have a worse record in the Premier League than Brighton since the turn of the year. (Correct before the West Ham v Chelsea match.)

Liverpool’s 30-year wait for a title came to an end this time last year, Klopp’s side crushing all-comers at Anfield as they won 18 of 19 home games – the sole blemish a draw with Burnley.

They finished 18 points ahead of Manchester City last season but have taken 30 points fewer than Pep Guardiola’s side in this calendar year alone.

Matching their 2019-20 form was an unlikely task but Liverpool’s drop-off has been alarming, especially at home.

Only Fulham (four) have won fewer Premier League home points in 2021 than Liverpool’s five.

“In these games [against lower sides] we have had chances like madness and we didn’t use them. Who is to blame for that apart from us? Nobody,” said Klopp after the Newcastle draw.

“In the moment, frustration is obviously at 150% and I will find a way back on track but for the moment it’s so harsh. It’s tough to take but we have to take it.”

Liverpool are not alone in struggling at home – the absence of fans perhaps playing a part – with Leicester, Arsenal and Tottenham all dropping more points than might be expected.

But the Reds have lost six times at Anfield in the league this season, as many as Brighton, Burnley and Newcastle, and they have collected an even split of 27 points in home and away games this year.

Willock’s goal should have come as no surprise, given Liverpool have kept just three home clean sheets in the Premier League this season, conceding at least once in each of their past eight games at Anfield in the competition.

Team Days
Leicester City 218
Liverpool 135
Manchester United 127
Manchester City 102
Chelsea 73
Everton 63
Up to but not including West Ham v Chelsea

‘This club is a Champions League team’

Left-back Andrew Robertson was in no mood to dismiss his side’s chances of qualifying – but admitted that even winning every remaining game might not be enough.

Liverpool are at Old Trafford next to take on old rivals Manchester United in the most high-profile of their remaining fixtures.

“This club is a Champions League team,” he said.

“We got to the quarters-finals this year – and we are still disappointed with that – and two finals in the space of four years and won the Premier League comfortably last year, so to not have Champions League football next year would deflate the whole club, of course it would.

Team Days
Leicester City 114
Manchester United 114
Manchester City 102
Chelsea 43
Liverpool 43
West Ham 27
Up to but not including West Ham v Chelsea

“This club is based on fighting to the end and that’s what we need to do. Even if we win the next five games it might still not be enough but we need to put that pressure on the teams.

“There have just been too many games this season where we’ve dropped too many points.

“Against the bottom six, if you’ve only picked five points up at home then unfortunately you are going to fall short of your target.”

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