Liverpool greats Steve McManaman and John Aldridge believe Jurgen Klopp is under huge pressure to deliver a top four finish in this season’s Premier League, after suggesting he can ‘have no excuses if he fails to take the club back into the Champions League.
Klopp is edging towards the end of his first full campaign as Liverpool manager, with the eight months he had at the helm last last season giving him a head start on some of his Premier League rivals as he bids to inject his philosophy into the club.
Now McManaman suggests the moment has come for Klopp to deliver, as he suggested plotting a route back into the Champions League is a necessity for the German.
“It would be a bit of a disaster if Liverpool finish outside of the top four this season,” BT Sport pundit McManaman tells us.
“When you consider how they went out of the two domestic cup competition this season, Klopp needs to deliver something and there can be no excuses now. If he doesn’t get top four, there will be a lot of pressure coming on to him.
“They have plenty of time between matches to prepare, they have a first eleven that can beat anyone in the Premier League and Klopp has to find a way to get the best out of them against all kind of opposition.
“They are brilliant at times and then you have total frustration against some of the teams lower down (in the table). They have a problem breaking down opponents with a defensive gameplan and that has been an issue throughout Klopp’s time at the club. He needs to find a solution to that as they have a lot of those teams to play in the final few weeks of the season.
“So the moment has come for Klopp and Liverpool to deliver now. There have been six teams going at it all season to try and get into the top four and Liverpool have make sure they are not one of the two teams who miss out.”
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Klopp’s Liverpool face a tough test against local rivals Everton at Anfield this weekend, with the visitors looking to claim a first victory at the home of their local rivals since 1999.
Former Liverpool striker John Aldridge believes Ronald Koeman’s Everton class of 2017 are capable of ending that miserable run, but only if they are allowed to get a supply line to lead striker Romelu Lukaku.
“I expect Liverpool to find a way to win the derby, so long as they keep Lukaku quiet,” states Aldridge.
“He is a good finisher and in decent form, but he is not a player who will take a game from you away on his own. He needs service to score goals and if Liverpool cut down his supply line, they should have enough to continue their excellent record against their local rivals.”
Like McManaman, Aldridge believes Klopp needs to secure Champions League football for Liverpool this season, as he suggested the faith placed in the Liverpool boss will be on the line in the final weeks of the season.
“When you work for a big club like Liverpool, you have to get them into the Champions League and Klopp knows he is under pressure to make that happen,” adds Aldridge.
“If he doesn’t make it, people will start questioning him, but I still think Klopp is only getting started with what he wants to do for Liverpool.
“The way this game works now, you are a hero one minute and the same people want you out after a couple of bad defeats. The Liverpool fans who called the radio phone-in shows I do questioning Klopp’s future at the club during the miserable month of January need their head testing. This is the right man to bring success, even if the events of the last few weeks have taken some of the gloss off his reputation.
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“My concern would be that Liverpool struggle against teams that play with a defensive mindset and they will come up against a lot of them doing just that in the final weeks of the season.
“They have struggled against Burnley, Bournemouth, Hull and teams like that, so the idea that they have ‘easy’ games to finish the season is nonsense. Liverpool perform at their best against the top sides, so that their run-in would be a concern for me.”
After Saturday’s game against Everton, Liverpool have fixtures against Bournemouth, Stoke, West Bromwich Albion, Crystal Palace, Watford, Southampton, West Ham and Middlesbrough on their agenda.
They head into this weekend’s Premier League programme four points ahead of fifth place Manchester United, although Jose Mourinho’s team have two games in hand on their old foes.