London (AFP) – Jurgen Klopp says Liverpool have their destiny “in our hands” as they seek to end a disappointing season on a high by finishing in the top four of the Premier League.
The deposed champions are battling with Chelsea and Leicester for the two remaining slots in next season’s Champions League, with Manchester City and Manchester United already assured of qualification.
Klopp’s men are level on points with Leicester but their goal difference is superior, meaning all the Reds have to do at home to Crystal Palace is match the Foxes’ result against Tottenham.
Third-placed Chelsea, one point clear of Liverpool and Leicester, travel to face mid-table Aston Villa.
With 10 games to go Liverpool were seven points adrift of fourth-placed Chelsea but they have taken 23 points from the past 27 available and are unbeaten in nine.
“We just found stability, created confidence again or got it back, and scored goals in the right moments and conceded less, let me say it like this,” Klopp said on Friday.
But he warned that Liverpool’s recent good run would mean nothing against a determined Crystal Palace side led by former Anfield boss Roy Hodgson, who is stepping down at the end of the season.
“Nobody should expect the perfect game, like in the sense of an early lead and all these kind of things,” warned Klopp, whose side beat Palace 7-0 in the reverse fixture in December.
“You have to fight for it. I respect Crystal Palace too much, what they want to give Roy in his last game maybe as a manager. I am pretty sure they want to give their absolute everything, rightly so.”
– Fans return –
A total of 10,000 Liverpool fans will be inside Anfield for the match after a season played almost entirely behind closed doors because of the coronavirus.
Klopp said having them back was the “best news I can imagine” but he said they must stay patient, even if things were not going Liverpool’s way on a nervy final day.
“When the door is open you still have to step through,” he said. “That’s what the boys did so far, but not finally. That’s the only thing we have to focus on.”
“It was a strange season, nothing will change that,” he added. “It was an incredibly intense season, nothing will change that. But we have it now in our hands to make a top, top finish of the season.”
FA Cup winners Leicester potentially face heartbreak for a second successive season after missing out last year courtesy of a final-day defeat by Manchester United.
But Brendan Rodgers will fancy his team’s chances of beating managerless Tottenham while Champions League finalists Chelsea have a tricky task at Villa.
West Ham only need a point at home to Southampton on Sunday to secure sixth place and a Europa League spot.
Spurs can still pip them on goal difference should they beat Leicester and the Hammers lose to Southampton.