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Brendan beware! Spluttering Liverpool have Leicester in their sights as Champions League race hots up

5:26 PM EDT 5/8/21
Thiago Alcantara Brendan Rodgers Liverpool Leicester City GFX
Goals from Sadio Mane and Thiago Alcantara kept the Reds' top-four hopes alive as they beat Southampton 2-0 at Anfield on Saturday

Match statistics: Liverpool 2-0 Southampton

It is not over yet. Not quite. 

Leicester beware. Liverpool are still fighting. Despite everything, despite the knocks and the setbacks and the injuries, the Reds are still there. 

Somehow.

The race for Champions League qualification goes on. Jurgen Klopp’s side simply had to win here and they did, Sadio Mane’s header and Thiago Alcantara’s first goal in English football giving them a battling 2-0 victory over Southampton at Anfield on Saturday evening.

With Leicester surprisingly beaten at home by Newcastle 24 hours previously, it means Liverpool have closed to within six points of the fourth-placed Foxes with a game in hand.

And Leicester’s final three fixtures, in case you had forgotten, are away to Manchester United, away to Chelsea and at home to Tottenham. Ouch.

Liverpool will surely, at the very least, need to win all four of their remaining games, starting at Old Trafford on Thursday. They have not won there under Klopp, of course, but this would be an ideal time to alter that.

They need to get to 69 points, by hook or by crook. It is the only chance they have.

At least they have given themselves a shot, which is more than they looked like having a few weeks back. They are seven games unbeaten in the league now, though how they will rue those late equalisers which cost them against Leeds and Newcastle. Without those, they would be in business. 

It would, you have to say, be quite an achievement if Liverpool were to make it. Even Klopp has admitted that their performance levels have not merited a place in Europe’s premier competition.

They are a tough watch at the minute, missing key players, missing their supporters and missing the verve and energy which has been their hallmark over the past four years. 

Nobody, with the exception of Nat Phillips perhaps, will look back on this campaign with fondness. The malaise has gripped everyone, the life sapped out of players and staff alike. 

Even the victories are ugly. This one was, Liverpool nosing their way in front and then grinding it out in the second half. A more clinical side than Southampton, it has to be said, would have punished the home side’s nerves and slackness.

But three points are three points, and Liverpool had just enough here to clinch them.

They led courtesy of Mane’s first Anfield goal of 2021, a smart back-post header from a fine Mohamed Salah cross.

That, remarkably, was the first time those two have combined for a Premier League goal this season, and doesn’t that tell you everything about this side’s struggles? The well-oiled machine has been anything but.

They had to dig in thereafter, looking anything but convincing at times.

Alisson Becker made a series of timely interventions, including one from Che Adams after he had inexplicably passed the ball straight to the Southampton striker. His six saves were the most he has made in a single Premier League match since his arrival in 2018.

It was left to Thiago to calm the nerves in the final minute of the 90, the Spain international finishing expertly from outside the box to break his Anfield duck. Relief as much as elation was the order of the day.

"The door has opened for us in the past, and now there is a window. We will try and make it through the window," the ex-Bayern Munich star mused to Sky Sports post-match.

Liverpool are not a team that strikes fear into opponents at the moment, but Brendan Rodgers will be starting to worry, that is for sure.

If Leicester were to mess this one up, they would be kicking themselves for all eternity.