LONDON (Reuters) - Liverpool’s clash with Brighton & Hove Albion at Anfield next weekend is now a “final” in their bid for a top-four finish after a 1-0 defeat at rivals Chelsea in the Premier League on Sunday, manager Juergen Klopp said.
One league win in five means Liverpool - who looked assured of a Champions League qualifying spot a month ago - are three points clear of Chelsea in fifth, having played a game more.
Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud’s first-half header was enough to earn the three points for the home side. Liverpool did plenty of pressing but could not find an equaliser.
Liverpool have 72 points ahead of Tottenham Hotspur with 71 and Chelsea on 69, both with a game in hand on the Merseysiders.
However, Liverpool’s superior goal difference over Chelsea means a win in their final-day clash with Brighton would guarantee a top-four finish, regardless of what fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur or Chelsea do in their remaining fixtures.
“I’m really proud of the boys because they again invested everything,” Klopp said. “Of course we have played better games this season but in our situation against Chelsea, who are a world-class team, that is quite a challenge to do it much better than we did today.
“Now we have a final next Sunday, and that’s how life is. Chelsea have to win their games as well. We play our last game at home and Chelsea have to go to Newcastle - that’s not a holiday trip, it doesn’t sound like a holiday trip to me.”
Liverpool face Real Madrid in the Champions League final and could also qualify for next season’s competition as winners.
The spotlight at Stamford Bridge was on league top scorer Mohamed Salah, facing his old club, but the Egypt forward was booked for diving and had a quiet afternoon - one that was understandable in the circumstances, according to Klopp.
“He can do much better, and he will score again, but today was not a game for (him),’ Klopp added. “There was no space - and he can play with no space but not today.”
Editing by Ken Ferris