Liverpool FC

Liverpool's Champions League exit shows why top four finish is more important than ever

Robbie Copeland
Apr 15, 2021, 12:52 PM GMT+1
Liverpool are out of this season's Champions League
Liverpool are out of this season's Champions League | Michael Regan/Getty Images

It's been a season of bumps and bruises for Liverpool, so much so that a Champions League exit to Real Madrid doesn't even feel too disappointing.

Numbed by a campaign where every new low has outdone the last, it never really felt like another miracle was on the cards at Anfield. The damage was done in Madrid, and some poor finishing in Merseyside put the final nail in the Reds' coffin.

The post-match narrative about how Liverpool 'had a go' at the Spanish champions, and can bow out of the tournament with their heads held high, were a grim reminder of how quickly things can regress to where they were pre-Jurgen Klopp.

Less than a year after scaling the mountain, we're almost back in 'plucky Liverpool' territory already.

That's exactly why finishing in the top four more important than it has ever been.

If Liverpool want to restore their reputation and stay in the mix at the top level, they have to be in the Champions League to do it.

Europe's premier club competition is a platform for relevance, and Liverpool more than anyone know how transformative it can be. Two years ago, that comeback against Barcelona picked them up from the floor after losing the league to Manchester City, and set the wheels in motion for all that followed.

The subsequent final in Madrid was a watershed moment for Klopp's tenure: without it, there is an argument to be made that they would not have romped to the title the season after.

From a footballing point of view as much as a branding one, the importance of regularly mixing it with the top teams in the world cannot be overstated. And Klopp acknowledged that, speaking after their exit at the hands of Madrid.

"Tonight, it was a good game, but we just have to keep going, we have to keep fighting," he said after the second leg at Anfield.

"We want to be in the Champions League next year but in the moment we still have to pick up more points than a lot of other teams.

"We love this competition and for other reasons it is very important we are back in it. We can now concentrate on the Premier League and we will. We have to work our socks off against Leeds."

Now that Real Madrid have ended the European dream for another year, the top four is all Liverpool have to play for. And after three straight wins in the league - for the first time since September - they have every chance of getting it.

Doing so would restore some pride after a long and damaging season, but it would also give the Reds a better chance of bouncing back next season, and proving 2020/21 has been no more than a worrying flash in the pan.