Liverpool Club Focus – Slow progress as Champions League chances slip away

Kenny Dalglish’s hopes of guiding Liverpool into the Champions League in his first full season as manager since his fairytale return to the club are all but over following a disappointing defeat at the hands of Sunderland. The slender 1-0 loss turned out to be the Reds’ third consecutive Premier League defeat, leaving them in seventh place – a staggering 28 points behind leaders Manchester United, 10 points behind fourth-place Arsenal and just three points ahead of Stoke City, who are in 13th position.

Of course, the Merseysiders have a game in hand on many of the sides currently sitting below them in the table. However, should local rivals Everton, who have been dogged by financial problems and downbeat for much of the season, beat the Reds in that extra game on Tuesday, then the Toffees will leapfrog Liverpool. That would be a disastrous outcome for Dalglish, and with so little of the season remaining, the Carling Cup champions will need to ensure that their season does not simply fizzle out.

The Reds have already booked their place in the Europa League for next season thanks to their win at Wembley; therefore they do not have much to play for in the league apart from pride. However, having spent lavishly last summer, Dalglish will be eager to see his side improve on their tally of 58 points from last season. As things stand, Liverpool are 19 points away from that points total with just 11 games to go. Should the Anfield outfit end this season as they began it, then they will finish the campaign with 58 points. However, a repeat of their poor form from the last 11 games could see them end up with just 48 points. Such a finish would not represent good value for money.

But despite their Premier League woes, it must not be forgotten than Liverpool are still unbeaten in the cup competitions this season. Not only did Dalglish guide the Reds to their first trophy in almost six years, but he has also steered them into the quarter-final stage of the FA Cup. While a top-four finish was the main target for the owners, manager, players and supporters at the beginning of the season, the possibility of winning two pieces of silverware in a single season cannot be frowned upon.

It is clear that the pressure Dalglish is under stems from the significant amount of money he spent last summer. Big-money signings Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing have not set Anfield alight in their first season and this has caused some frustration. However, it must also be remembered that Liverpool sold and purchased several players in that transfer window, and it was always going to be a big ask of this new-look side to gel together and click at the first attempt. This is a transitional season for Liverpool, but only an overall improvement from last term will keep the critics away from Dalglish.

See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Liverpool v Everton

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