Emre Can has said Liverpool need a flawless end to the season to secure Champions League qualification and a favour from Manchester City against José Mourinho’s United on Thursday.
Liverpool’s hold on a top-four finish weakened on Sunday when they slipped to a 2-1 defeat at home against Crystal Palace. “It is always the same,” said Can, lamenting the “stupid” defending at a set piece that enabled Christian Benteke to seal Palace’s victory with a second goal of the game against his former club.
United can overtake Jürgen Klopp’s side in the Premier League by winning their two games in hand and seventh-placed Arsenal would draw level with maximum points from their outstanding matches. Can believes the initiative remains with Liverpool but admits they have no margin for error with four matches to play.
“We are frustrated, disappointed,” the midfielder said. “It is always the same. We controlled the game, I think we didn’t play too bad but then we conceded two goals from two chances. It’s very disappointing. We can be disappointed after the game but from Monday we have to look forward. We have got to go again and it is still in our hands. If we win the last four games, we will reach the Champions League. Some of the other top teams will play against each other and we will give it our best.”
Liverpool have spent only two weeks outside the top four since September but could be out of the Champions League places when they kick off at Watford next Monday. Klopp’s side then host Southampton and travel to West Ham United before Middlesbrough visit on the final day of the season, and Can believes four successive wins are required to qualify for Europe’s premier competition.
He said: “Four wins has to be the target. The next game is Watford and we want to win there and we will see what happens. Everyone is very disappointed because we should have won against Palace. We had the chances. It was stupid from us. Again it was a set piece. We had worked on them in training, we had trained very well. All the set pieces in training we had done very well but again we concede a goal after a set piece. It was stupid.
“You are always disappointed to lose a game but we didn’t play too bad. We had patience and everything and then we were 1-0 up. We have to be clever, smarter in that position. And then we concede two goals.”
Can took responsibility for failing to double Liverpool’s lead against Sam Allardyce’s side when he missed a glaring chance from Georginio Wijnaldum’s cutback. “The ball didn’t come at me too quick,” he admitted. “I don’t know why but I couldn’t score the goal and it was a good opportunity. The pitch was a little bit dry but I have to score this goal. I know this.”
Adam Lallana is expected to return from a long-term lay-off against Watford but, after Daniel Sturridge rejoined Liverpool’s lengthy injury list before the game against Palace with another hip problem, Can claimed the absences took a toll on Sunday. “When you look at the bench it was very young,” he said. Liverpool’s substitutes included two 17-year-olds – Rhian Brewster and Ben Woodburn – the 18-year-old Trent Alexander-Arnold and the 19-year-old Joe Gomez. “We miss a lot of our players, there are a lot of injuries. You should look at Chelsea. They are lucky with that, for example. We don’t have luck with this – but it is no excuse. We have to go again. We have to fight for our target.”
Can hopes Pep Guardiola’s side help Liverpool’s top-four aims on Thursday by ending Manchester United’s run of 23 matches unbeaten in the Premier League. He said: “Is a City win the better result? Then I am for City. One of the top teams will drop points and that is a good thing. We have to be there and in the next game against Watford, we have to win again.”