Liverpool head to Arsenal on Saturday in the Premier League’s early kick-off.
The Reds had forced their way back into the race for a top-four place and a Champions League spot prior to losing 2-1 against Manchester United at home last time out in the Premier League.
United’s victory at Anfield could prove a crucial one in the race for a top four finish.
The win gave Louis van Gaal’s men a five point cushion on the fifth-place Merseysider’s, who were threatening to catch the Red Devils.
A six point difference is not a major one, but the Reds face a tough trip to third-place Arsenal this weekend, while United host struggling Aston Villa at Old Trafford. If that point’s difference becomes nine points, then Brendan Rodgers side will have their work cut out to catch their bitter-rivals.
Not only did Liverpool lose the game against United, the Reds also lost two big players through suspension. Steven Gerrard produced a moment of sheer lunacy after only being on the pitch a matter of seconds, as he lunged into a tackle he was never going to win and was shown a red card.
The action was probably born out of the frustration of not starting the game, but once again the former-England captain may have cost his team.
Centre-back Martin Skrtel is not known for his subtlety and his stamp on United keeper David De Gea was another unprofessional act and earned him a suspension.
Both player’s actions and their absence could be a major problem for Liverpool. Gerrard is no longer considered an automatic first choice, but Skrtel is one of the Reds leaders in defence.
Skrtel has helped marshal a Liverpool defence that has kept six straight clean sheets away from home, which is actually a club record. What he lacks in finesse he makes up in sheer brute strength and physical presence.
In short he is the sort of centre-back a team needs when they are visiting a team like Arsenal, who have collected eight straight wins at home in the Premier League and suffered just one defeat on home soil in 18 top-flight matches. The Slovakian international will be missed.
One positive for Liverpool and their fans to take for this weekend’s trip to the Emirates is that the Reds have won six times at Arsenal in the Premier League, which is bettered only by Manchester United who have claimed seven wins in the red half of north London.
Another is their away record, which has seen Brendan Rodgers side claim five wins from their last six games on their travels, so all is definitely not lost for the Merseysider’s.
I am sure the whole Raheem Sterling fiasco has not helped the mood in the Liverpool camp this week. Everybody connected with the club have been left to stew on that United defeat over the international break and the youngster really has not helped himself by speaking out in the media about his future.
As ex-Liverpool star Phil Thompson recently stated the 20-year-old has been poorly advised by his representatives. The youngster may be talented, but he has not exactly enjoyed a stellar campaign for the Reds and has even claimed that he is tired earlier in the campaign.
Liverpool needs Sterling to produce in games like the one at the Emirates this weekend. They are the sort of games that define just how good a player really is. The youngster now needs his football to do the talking and keep his own counsel from now on.
At the moment it is still a realistic aim and within touching distance. However, if results go against them this weekend the Reds could be a massive eight points behind United and it will be difficult for Rodgers team to make up that gap with such few games remaining.
Liverpool certainly cannot be written-off in the race for the Champions League spots, but I get the feeling that the defeat against Manchester United could just come back to haunt them in the final reckoning at the end of the season.
Is Champions League football out of reach for Liverpool?
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