Liverpool strife shows Arsenal it’s a long way back after UCL exile

Liverpool strife shows Arsenal it's a long way back after UCL exile
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It is the closest they will probably ever come to experiencing the anxiety and fear of a relegation battle, but make no mistake, Arsenal will be peering over a cliff this Sunday with a view every bit as chilling as that which faces Sunderland, Middlesbrough and Hull City as they stare into the abyss of the Championship.

As for Liverpool, currently sitting a point clear of Arsenal in fourth place ahead of this weekend’s final round of Premier League fixtures, the nervous tension will also be affecting every one of Jurgen Klopp’s players and the club’s supporters because they are on the brink of reclaiming something which, not so long ago, had appeared to be an annual formality.

Champions League qualification, or the failure to make it, has become the equivalent of winning and losing a battle to stay in the Premier League for English football’s most powerful clubs.

Arsenal have so far been immune to the devastating effects that can be triggered by missing out, having qualified for the Champions League in every season this century, but they are now approaching their day of reckoning.

And Liverpool’s fate since tumbling out of the Champions League picture in 2009-10 serves as a warning to Arsenal, and Manchester City – who are also still in need of a point to confirm a top-four finish – of the black hole that awaits if they tumble into the Europa League by failing to secure a top four position this weekend.

So here is the state of the play in the race for the top four ahead of Sunday’s season finale. City will be certain of the top four if they earn a point at Watford on Sunday. Even if Pep Guardiola’s team were to lose at Vicarage Road, Arsenal would need a five-goal swing in their favour to overhaul City and that would require a demolition of Everton at the Emirates.

The real fight is between Arsenal and Liverpool. If Liverpool fail to defeat relegated Middlesbrough at Anfield, an Arsenal victory will see Arsene Wenger’s team climb into the top four at Liverpool’s expense.

But if Liverpool win, Arsenal will be consigned to fifth and that is when the problems will begin. And it will not just mean a battle to keep hold of Alexis Sanchez. Far from it.

Defeat at Debrecen in 2010 knocked Liverpool out of the Champions League - they have only returned once since then.

Defeat at Debrecen in 2010 knocked Liverpool out of the Champions League – they have only returned once since then.

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