Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge insists that securing fourth place in the Barclays Premier League has to remain the priority despite manager Brendan Rodgers suggesting second-placed Manchester City can be caught.
The fifth-placed Reds are only four points adrift of Manuel Pellegrini’s stuttering side but Sturridge believes their focus has to be ensuring they have Champions League football again next season.
With that in mind, the visit of arch-rivals Manchester United, currently two points ahead in fourth, takes on even greater significance.
“It is important to secure fourth place and then from there look on,” said the England international.
“To finish in the top four is realistic for us, it’s what we’re aiming to do, and if we can get higher than that then perfect.
“But finishing in the top four is the objective and that’s the most important thing for us. It’s not about aiming for anything other than that now.
“If we can finish in the top four, then we can push on and challenge for the title again next season.
“I think top four is definitely possible for us.”
Sturridge spent five months out recovering from thigh and calf injuries but when he returned to the side at the end of January he found the team had come through a slump which virtually coincided with his absence.
The top four looked a long way off in mid-December when they were seven points off fourth place and not playing well but now they look like recreating something similar to last season’s effort when they won 11 matches in a row on their way to second.
“The boys have fought back and we’re where we are now, and that is testament to the hard work everyone has put in to get to where we are today,” Sturridge told liverpoolfc.com.
“It (the formation) is working. Everyone is defending very well, Si Mignolet (goalkeeper) is doing extremely well also. It’s great to see and long may it continue.
“In terms of how we go out there with a positive attitude, try to play our football, try to break down the opposition and create chances to score goals.
“Sometimes maybe we don’t create as we did last season, but I feel that as long as we’re winning games, that’s all that matters.”
Victory over United on Sunday would see Liverpool return to the top four for the first time since the opening weekend of the season and midfielder Adam Lallana believes that would be significant for the final two months of the campaign.
“Psychologically, it’s massive for us, because if we win we go above United and we get a foot in the top four,” he told talkSPORT.
“But it’s not all decisive on this game, there are still another eight games after.
“There are constantly going to be twists and turns, I’m sure. Tottenham and Southampton are still in and around the fight as well, so they are going to want to be picking up points to make it almost three teams out of six getting into the top four.”