What Liverpool must do if they’re to finish in the top four

Brendan Rodgers’ second January in charge at Liverpool doesn’t look to be a repeat of the successful first. At least not yet.

With Jose Mourinho confirming Juan Mata’s sale to Manchester United, and Chelsea stealing a march on Liverpool in the chase for Mohamed Salah’s signature this week, Liverpool are in danger of being left behind both in the market and in the race for fourth.

Rodgers went into this January knowing what he had to do. The recent two-month loss of Lucas Leiva to injury meant the club had little choice but to enter the market. But with clubs above and below Liverpool outmuscling them on the financial front, Rodgers will need to unearth another star in the making to aid in the club’s pursuit of Champions League football.

Liverpool, among others, have lost out to Napoli for the signing of Jorginho from Hellas Verona. The 22-year-old Brazilian moved for an initial €5 million with a further €5 million being paid in the summer. Jorginho has been a revelation in Serie A this season, a scoring midfielder who has been inspirational in leading Verona to sixth place in the table. Liverpool were said to be interested, and the signing of the Brazilian would have mimicked the impact Coutinho had on the club last year.

It’s an interesting battle for fourth now. Juan Mata at United makes David Moyes’ side favourites to land fourth place. Aside from the Spaniard, Moyes can call upon Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie for the final few months of the season. Beyond Luis Suarez, Liverpool don’t have that level of quality to help in their cause. There’s little quality in depth, as without Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, Liverpool look worryingly short of reliable goal scorers.

Against Aston Villa last weekend, Liverpool looked to be overrun in the midfield. What should be of great concern is that there are far better sides in the league than Villa, who managed to break at speed and convert twice. Paul Lambert’s side badly exposed Liverpool’s need for reinforcements alongside Lucas ahead of the defence, a problem now heightened by Lucas’ long-term injury layoff.

There is still promise for Liverpool, not least because the window remains open for another week. The club are said to be looking at Spartak Moscow’s Romulo, while as seen with the capture of Coutinho and the transfer of Jorginho to Napoli, the Italian market seems awash with low-cost buys with tremendous upside.

That’s where Liverpool will find their joy this month. The club already tapped into the Spanish market in the summer to very little success. Iago Aspas and Luis Alberto have made little to no impact since arriving at Anfield, while Aly Cissokho simply isn’t good enough. Regardless, there will always be hits and misses, even with big-money signings. Liverpool must continue in the same manner but pray they find a few more Coutinhos than duds.

Liverpool should know the drill by now: new contract or not, Champions League football will make it much easier to hold onto Luis Suarez, with the revenue brought in from UEFA able to provide the Uruguayan with the quality of player that should prolong his stay at Anfield.

That could hinge on what Liverpool do this month. Based on the season-altering signing of Juan Mata at United, Liverpool are in danger of being left behind.

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