5 Liverpool Storylines to Follow as Season’s End Nears
5 Liverpool Storylines to Follow
After a promising start to the 2013 Premier League campaign, Liverpool now find themselves in the all-too-familiar position of battling for a top-four spot.
Loses to Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City, along with shock defeats to Hull City at the KC Stadium and Southampton at Anfield suggest that the Merseysiders are ill-equipped for a title chase and must focus on the hotly-contested fight for Champions League qualification.
Currently sitting in the much-coveted fourth position with 47 points, Brendan Rodgers' men trail third-place Chelsea by six points, while a gap of just seven points separates them for Manchester United in seventh. Neighboring Everton lie two points behind in fifth while Tottenham Hotspur occupy sixth place with 44.
Liverpool have failed to qualify for the Champions League during the last three years and finished a lowly seventh during the 2012-13 season. There is no doubt this year represents the best opportunity for the five-time European Champions to return to the big stage as United have struggled under new manager David Moyes.
The Manchester club has been ever-present in the Champions League since the 1995-96 season, but finds itself struggling to maintain a Europa League push, let alone a challenge for fourth place. If Liverpool want to attract the big-name players needed to take the next step towards being Premier League title challengers, European qualification is an absolute necessity.
As the season's end approaches, here are five Liverpool storylines to follow as the closest race for Champions League qualification in Premier League history reaches its conclusion.
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5. Will They Finish Above Everton?
The Merseyside derby encompasses everything great about British football: two historic teams with two historic stadiums sharing a combination of mutual respect and animosity toward one another while sharing the same city. Everton have finished above their local rivals for two seasons in a row, and with one position and two points currently separating them in the table, the duel for city supremacy is key to fans of both sides.
4. Will They Regret Loaning Out Reina?
Rodgers allowed Pepe Reina to join Napoli on loan after bringing in Belgium international Simon Mignolet from Sunderland. The £9 million signing started brightly for the Reds, but a slew of recent errors, including a high-profile flap on Boxing Day at the Etihad Stadium, could leave the manager regretting his decision come May.
3. Failing to Sign Yevhen Konoplyanka
Liverpool's failed attempt to sign Ukrainian winger Yevhen Konoplyanka in January could prove to be a costly mistake. The 24-year old looked set to join on deadline day, but an agreement could not reached with FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk and Liverpool were left empty-handed. Rumors suggest that Konoplyanka may still join in the summer, but could that be too little, too late?
2. Will Luis Suarez Break Goal-Scoring Record?
Luis Suarez finished second in the goal-scoring standings last season with Robin van Persie taking top spot. Suarez has already matched his 23-goal total from last year and with 14 games remaining, he may well break the 34-goal record held by Englishmen Andy Cole and Alan Shearer.
1. Can They Qualify For Champions League?
Ultimately, the most important storyline of Liverpool's season will be the position in which they finish. Liverpool haven't secured a top-four finish since the 2008-09 season, and even that wasn't viewed as a success because they finished runners-up to United after looking like genuine title contenders for much of the season. Qualifying for the Champions League is a step in the right direction for Liverpool, and Rodgers will be looking to take that step this year.