Liverpool cannot afford to be out of the Champions League

carragherFootball FanCast columnist Tristan Mann responds to Jamie Carragher comments about Liverpool’s plight.

Liverpool have travelled to Hungary for their must-win Champions League showdown with Debrecen. Rafael Benitez’s men have to return home with three points to have any chance of qualifying for the knock-out stages of the competition.

However, with Fiorentina in pole position to take second place in group E, some fans, and even Liverpool’s veteran defender Jamie Carragher, are already preparing themselves for a premature Champions League exit.

Carragher said today: “The club doesn’t die because you go out of the Champions League.

Obviously we will do everything we can to stay in it by making sure at least we win our match tonight. But if we do go out, there is always the Europa League.

If we could go on and win that, it would put a different gloss on our season.”

It seems that Carra has already admitted defeat in the Champions League and is now, somewhat depressingly for Liverpool fans, turning his attention to that most meaningless of competitions grand old competition the Europa League.

Carragher, to my mind at least, made two rather bold assumptions in the above quotes. One, that a club doesn’t die from going out of the Champions League. That may be true if a team falls during the knock-out stages, but Liverpool are in danger of being dumped out at the group stage.

This happened to Manchester United a few seasons back, and they didn’t even qualify for the Europa League. However, United did then re-qualify for the Champions League the next season, meaning the financial backlash of their previous season’s failure was not as bad as it may have been.

Liverpool, on the other hand, are currently seventh in the Premier League, and while there is still a long way to go, the competition to grab the last Champions League spot will be fierce and Liverpool are by no means guaranteed to get it.

If they go out tonight, and then fail to qualify for the competition next season, the consequences could be dire, especially for a club already in a fair amount of debt. Liverpool wouldn’t die, to quote Carragher, if they went out tonight, but it may start the beginning of the end for a club that depends desperately on the monetary rewards of being in the Champions League.

Assumption number two from Carragher, was the fact that he seemed sure Liverpool would win the Europa League if they went out tonight. Now the Europa League may not be the strongest competition in the World, but it does contain a number of strong teams including Ajax, Valencia, Roma and Benfica.

Yes, Liverpool would have a good chance of doing well, but as with getting a top four Premier League finish this season, Liverpool should not be simply expecting a Europa League triumph.

It seems that for all their failings so far this season, Liverpool are determined that ‘the season is young’, and ‘there’s time to turn it around’. This is true to an extent, but how long is it going to be before they take they decide time is in fact running out, and putting together a mildly successful run of games wouldn’t actually be a half-bad idea.

Read more of Tristan Mann’s work here