Liverpool v Man Utd – Why Sunday is much bigger for Jurgen Klopp’s side – Danny Murphy analysis

Fourth place is everything to Liverpool now, which is why Sunday’s game at Anfield is much bigger for them than it is for Manchester United.

United are in a great position going into it, and not just because they are in terrific form. They have cemented themselves in the top three, have already lifted one trophy and more silverware could follow this season.

They can afford a bad game, or even a bad result, this weekend without it derailing their entire campaign. Unfortunately for Liverpool, their situation is completely different.

Jurgen Klopp’s side are already playing catch-up in the Premier League after some disappointing results and their heavy defeat by Real Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie means that finishing fourth is, realistically, the only target they have left.

Whether they make it or not is vital for what happens next, too.

The size of that Real defeat was another example of why it will be time for a big reset at Liverpool this summer, which I think could see as many as five or six players leave and the same number signed in their place.

Whoever they try to bring in, having Champions League football is a great carrot to be able to offer and of course the finances that come with qualification would be crucial for any squad rebuild as well.

Liverpool made almost £100m by reaching the Champions League final last season and just by reaching the knockout stages this time they have already banked around £40m.

That money is extremely important to them and being in the Europa League does not bring anything like the same reward.

Will top four make or break any Bellingham deal?

There is no way Liverpool will struggle to attract top players this summer if they aren’t in next season’s Champions League but if they want someone who also has offers from clubs who have qualified, it could be a deciding factor.

I don’t think it would affect the decision of Borussia Dortmund and England midfielder Jude Bellingham, though, to pick out just one player who has been strongly linked with the Reds.

If he is keen on going to Liverpool in the first place, then Bellingham will surely believe that his presence would help the club be back involved in the Champions League the following campaign.

He only turns 20 in June so I doubt he would be bothered about missing out for one season in that competition because he has got so many years ahead of him to play in it.

If Klopp does need to persuade Bellingham – or anyone else – he can always point at his record with Liverpool. So far, the Reds have finished in the top four in every full season since he took charge in October 2015. If they don’t make it this time, then there is nothing to suggest it is anything other than a hiccup.

What happens on Sunday will not decide anything, either. There will still be 13 games to go and the teams immediately above Liverpool, Tottenham and Newcastle, are blowing hot and cold.

So, if Liverpool lose, their hopes of finishing fourth will not be all over. They still have to play Spurs at Anfield, and they have been in a similar position before where they successfully chased teams down in the final few weeks – they did it 2021, when they needed a injury-time goal from their goalkeeper to keep them in the hunt.

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