Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp insists qualifying for the Champions League this season would be “one of the biggest achievements ever”.
The Reds boss knows how his comments about last term’s Premier League champions’ current campaign will be greeted in some quarters, but is unwavering in his assertion securing a top-four spot would be “absolutely massive”.
Injuries to his three centre-backs Virgil Van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip left Klopp having to play a patched-up defence for most of the campaign but they were still top of the table at Christmas.
However, the loss of captain Jordan Henderson to groin surgery in February compounded matters and further knocks and niggles have kept their remaining key players out at important times.
A total of 10 players were absent for Sunday’s dramatic last-gasp win at West Brom, courtesy of Alisson Becker becoming the first goalkeeper to score in the club’s history, but those three points kept Champions League qualification in their own hands – a prospect which looked unlikely only a couple of weeks ago.
Asked how big playing in Europe’s elite club competition would be next season, Klopp told Sky Sports: “Massive, absolutely massive. One of the biggest achievements ever.
“I know how that sounds, but it’s the truth. Everybody here sees it like that, everybody.
“If you want to write a book about a season and you want to be depressed afterwards, then you’d probably take this season.
“You’d read it and think: ‘Wow really, that happened? Then that happened?’
“Most of the things they don’t ever get in public. It’s just really we had a lot of things to deal with but here we are.
“This season has been really hard work for us, without always getting a reward.
“Whatever happened this year, it has given us the chance to hold our destiny in our own hands with two games (to go).”
After managing just three wins in 14 league matches since Christmas, Liverpool are top of the form table with 20 points from the last 24 available.
It means they head into their final two matches at Burnley on Wednesday and Crystal Palace at Anfield on the final day of the season knowing six points will get them over the line.
“We are looking forward to the game at Burnley. It is a different mindset, but we know how tough it will be,” said Klopp.
“For the first time in ages, supporters in the stadium at Turf Moor and Sean Dyche – a proper competitive guy. The team lost to Leeds pretty clear, so they will want to strike back.
“It will be a tough one but qualifying for the Champions League should be tough. I have no problem with that.
“We just have to make sure we are ready. We have to bring all you need on the pitch again.”
With the furore of Alisson’s dramatic and historic goal having died down, defender Andy Robertson wants the Brazil international to go back to his day job.
“We’ll let Ali maybe enjoy his moment just now (for) maybe five, 10 minutes and then we’ll ask (for) a clean sheet from him on Wednesday because we’re still in the hunt, we’re still in it,” he told liverpoolfc.com
“But it’s going to be incredibly difficult and we now go to Turf Moor where there’ll be fans.”