73 is magic number for Liverpool in Champions League chase
A total of 73 points has been sufficient in four of the last five Premier League seasons to secure Champions League football. It would have been five in five had Chelsea not become kings of Europe and took the last spot despite finishing sixth in 2011/12.
Liverpool have reached 50 points at a New Year canter and, with 13 top-flight hurdles to go, they lead the best of the rest this term in the race for fourth place.
Brendan Rodgers’ Reds are now odds-on at 1/3 to finish the campaign in the top four and 2/1 to miss the boat after bitter rivals Everton and Manchester United slipped up again.
Losing once at Anfield all season, Liverpool recently put together back-to-back breathless first-half displays against the Toffees and former leaders Arsenal.
The Kop has rocked in celebration at seven of the Reds’ last nine home goals before half-time. Four of those came in 20 frenetic minutes against the Gunners.
Liverpool have prolific strike partnership Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge firing on all cylinders. Between them, they have scored 38 Premier League goals and 40 in all competitions.
Rodgers’ SAS are supplemented by Kop idol Steven Gerrard and teenage Reds winger Raheem Sterling, who have both netted six each in all competitions.
There has been the perfect response from Liverpool since losing back-to-back games over the festive period to Chelsea and Manchester City. The Reds have gone eight matches unbeaten.
Tottenham are Liverpool’s nearest challengers three points behind them, but with a vastly inferior goal difference. Spurs edged another Champions League hopeful in Everton, going 5/2 for a top-four finish.
Under Tim Sherwood, Tottenham have dropped four points from the last nine available, but now have explosive wide player Andros Townsend back from injury.
Former White Hart Lane and Blackburn Rovers playing favourite Sherwood has also rejuvenated Togo frontman Emmanuel Adebayor. The ex-Arsenal attacker, who was frozen out under Andre Villas-Boas, has seven in his last 11 in all competitions.
Sherwood believes the race for a top four place will “go down to the wire”, not least because he has to bring his team to Anfield on March 30th.
That encounter may have a huge say in who gets Champions League football. David Moyes’ Red Devils also entertain Liverpool on March 16th, and will be looking to derail the ambitions of their north-west rivals.
Everton meanwhile are two points adrift of Spurs in sixth, but are attractive 8/1 outsiders to crash the top four under Roberto Martinez for the first time since 2005. The Toffees have won just one of their last six Premier League matches, however, including a morale-sapping loss in the Merseyside derby.
Yet Everton have seven of the current bottom 11 to play in their remaining games. It is therefore still possible that Martinez’s men will bridge the gap.
Romelu Lukaku is out at the moment, but they have a gigantic replacement in Ivory Coast international Lacina Traore almost ready to lead the Toffees line.
United, who are reigning champions, have picked up just seven points from the last 18 and drew with basement club Fulham, leaving them a challenging nine behind Liverpool after 25 matches.
Results at Old Trafford have frankly been awful. Moyes’ Red Devils crashed out of both domestic cup competitions on home soil to compound their Premier League woes. United thus seem short at 9/2 to somehow claw back that deficit on Liverpool.
All four Champions League hopefuls are over halfway to that magic 73 points, but Liverpool look the most likely to reach it simply because of their deadly duo up front.