The results of Liverpool’s next games in the Premier League and Champions League might determine the course of the team’s season and potentially their summer transfer goals. The season has reached a pivotal point for manager Jürgen Klopp and his players after months of setbacks, inconsistent play, and off-field ownership uncertainty.
If things go well, Liverpool will have a better chance of winning and of convincing Jude Bellingham, who is their main target, to pick Anfield over the many other potential destinations if or—more likely—when he departs Borussia Dortmund this summer. Nevertheless, underwhelming performances would cause the team to lurch forward for the rest of the season, already out from the FA Cup, with the possibility of playing no European games in 2023–24, and major transfer targets likely preferring to join other sides.
Two crucial matches for Liverpool are their trip to Newcastle United on Saturday in the Premier League and their matchup with Real Madrid on Tuesday in the opening leg of the Champions League round of 16. Win them, and a way to keep their season alive becomes available. If they lost one, their chances of winning that tournament were all but gone. Nevertheless, if they drop both, Liverpool would not only be eliminated from the Champions League but also their chances of finishing in the top four in the Premier League and advancing to the competition the following season.
Liverpool’s first Premier League victory of 2023 came on Monday at Anfield, where they defeated struggling Everton 2-0. Because of that extended wait for three points, Klopp and his team will arrive at St. James’ Park nine points behind fourth-place Newcastle, who have had an incredible season and advanced to the Carabao Cup final against Man United.
After Everton won, Klopp’s response was telling in that he repeatedly punched the air in front of The Kop as the players exited the field, venting weeks of fury. He had performed this action many times before, but this time seemed different — more like relief than joy.
Although the victory was the primary cause of the relief, Liverpool finally appeared to be back to their former self for the first time since the opening few weeks of the season. The entire squad performed admirably, and upfront, Darwin Nunez (originally acquired for €75 million) and Cody Gakpo (originally acquired for €37 million) demonstrated why the club made such a significant investment in their abilities this season. The timing could not have been better, as everything now depends on the results of the matches against Newcastle and Real Madrid. Klopp would have been overjoyed to see his side perform like his team once more: with great energy, quick counterattacks, and slick passing.
The matchup against Newcastle on Saturday is crucial for Liverpool’s chances of finishing in the top four in the Premier League. With a game in hand, a win would bring them to within six points of the Magpies. In the event of a tie or a loss, Liverpool would have an uphill battle and the stakes would increase in anticipation of Real Madrid’s visit a few days later.
Liverpool’s history in Europe demonstrates their ability to defeat any opponent at any location, although Madrid may be the only side with a longer European winning streak. They enter the game with a psychological edge thanks to their 1-0 triumph over the Reds in the Champions League final last season in Paris (as well as their final victory in 2018 and five victories and one draw from their previous six encounters with them).
No team would want to have to play a two-legged Champions League match against Real Madrid to salvage their season, but if Liverpool can win their next two matches while maintaining their goals, there is hope for the remainder of the campaign.
Liverpool will be confident of reaching the Istanbul final if they defeat Madrid in the round of 16 (they have history at the Ataturk Stadium from their stunning 2005 win over AC Milan). The Premier League may be fully healthy for the crucial portion of the season if injured players are allowed to return. Diogo Jota played against Everton for the first time since the World Cup, Virgil van Dijk and Roberto Firmino were on the substitutes’ bench, and Luis Diaz is getting closer to making his long-awaited comeback from a knee injury. The stormy skies are dissipating.
The Premier League fixture list is packed over the last two months due to the six-week break for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar in November-December, with Liverpool scheduled to play 10 league games in April and May. With 30 points on the line during that time, his key players back in action, and Nunez and Gakpo starting to click, Klopp will be aware that his team has a chance to move up the standings when their competitors are under the pressure of the final stretch.
Liverpool won’t be able to preserve their season in April and May if they lose their next two games. Yet, despite the unexpectedly weak start to their season, don’t write them out just yet.