Loss to Blues means Reds face Brighton in last-day 'final'

Chelsea captain Gary Cahill helping Mohamed Salah get to his feet, as referee Anthony Taylor, with yellow card in hand, is ready to caution the Reds' top scorer for simulation during the English Premier League match at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
Chelsea captain Gary Cahill helping Mohamed Salah get to his feet, as referee Anthony Taylor, with yellow card in hand, is ready to caution the Reds' top scorer for simulation during the English Premier League match at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

LONDON • Liverpool's clash with Brighton at Anfield this weekend is now a "final" in their bid for a top-four finish after a 1-0 defeat at Premier League rivals Chelsea on Sunday, manager Jurgen Klopp said.

One league win in five means Liverpool, who looked assured of a Champions League qualifying spot a month ago, are only three points clear of Chelsea in fifth, having played a game more.

Liverpool, with 72 points, are third ahead of Tottenham with 71 and Chelsea on 69, both with a game in hand on the Merseysiders.

However, the Reds' superior goal difference over Chelsea means a win in their final-day home clash with Brighton would guarantee a top-four finish, regardless of how the other two teams fare.

"I'm really proud of the boys because they again invested everything," Klopp said after Olivier Giroud's first-half header gave hosts Chelsea the three points.

"Of course we have played better games this season.

"But Chelsea 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. It doesn't sound like a holiday trip to me."

Liverpool face Real Madrid in the Champions League final on May 26 and could also qualify for next season's competition as winners.

The spotlight at Stamford Bridge was on the league's top scorer Mohamed Salah (31 goals), facing his old club, but the Egypt forward was booked for diving and also had a quiet afternoon by his standards.

"That (diving) is not what I want to see, that is not what he wants to do. But obviously it happened," Klopp said. "He can do much better, and he will score again, but today was not a game for him."

Antonio Conte knows Chelsea must give their all and warned that the Blues will fight to the end.

"Usually when you play a must-win game, it is not easy because it's normal to be a bit nervous," said the manager. "We had the will to win, to keep the hope alive that we can get a Champions League place.

"I don't know if this will be enough but we have to try."

In a dramatic conclusion to the top-four battle, Chelsea host Huddersfield tomorrow and Tottenham face Newcastle the same evening.

On the final day, Tottenham entertain Leicester.

"It's important to face this situation with a lot of pride and show we are still alive," Conte added.

"Probably one month ago, it was impossible to imagine we would arrive at the end of the season fighting for the Champions League.

"We are winning, our opponents are dropping points, we are putting pressure on the other teams."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 08, 2018, with the headline 'Loss to Blues means Reds face Brighton in last-day 'final''. Print Edition | Subscribe