Alan Shearer has written in his column for Coral that the Europa League is now an important trophy for Liverpool, as he doubts they are capable of finishing in the top four this season.
The Europa League has now become a gateway to the Champions League, with the winner granted a direct spot in the following year’s elite competition - as shown by La Liga outfit Sevilla this term.
Liverpool, however, have not started their campaign too brightly, collecting consecutive 1-1 draws, and their latest stalemate with FC Sion of Switzerland saw the Reds rest a number of key players.
While this weekend’s Merseyside derby takes priority, Shearer feels that Reds boss Brendan Rodgers can’t afford to take the competition lightly as he predicts a top-four spot to be out of reach.
“In most Premier League cases, I would probably say the Europa League is a distraction, but for Liverpool it should be important,” Shearer wrote.
“Brendan has to win a trophy this year and if you win you can qualify for the Champions League, their best chance of getting into it as I don’t see them finishing in the top four.”
Europa League run:
Despite two consecutive draws, Liverpool still have ample opportunity to progress from the Europa League group stage and into the latter knockout rounds.
However, Rodgers must make a decision in terms of squad rotation and which competitions he considers to be a priority, both for his sake and that of the team.
There is enough quality in Liverpool’s ranks for them to go far on all fronts, though last season’s Europa League exit to Besiktas should serve as a warning as to how strong and challenging the competition is.