Liverpool haven’t been playing well all season. Watching them has been like pulling teeth compared to the last campaign, when they genuinely terrified the opposition.
But last season’s pace and verve has been replaced by a sluggishness and timidity. Liverpool’s players are under the cosh and they seem petrified to make a mistake.
You could argue that they could have played themselves into form by the time the knockout stages come around in February.
But, in truth, this new squad will take time to gel. We aren’t writing off the new signings yet. Brendan Rodgers can’t get it wrong every time. Players like Markovic, Lallana and Can have quality but are relatively inexperienced.
So dropping down into The Europa League could be best opportunity that Liverpool have to get back into The Champions League.
They are way off the pace in The Premier League right now. They will improve their position in time but it may get worse before it gets better in this respect – they face a buoyant Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday.
But it looks like Liverpool could be scrapping with the likes of Arsenal, Tottenham, Newcastle, Southampton etc. for fourth place if United continue to improve – the chances of a top four finish look remote right now.
So The Europa League could be the perfect olive branch. Win that and Liverpool are back in the top European competition next season due to recent rule changes. And right now it look like easily their best hope of qualification.
Liverpool’s brilliant season in 2013/14 got them Champions League and it feels as if that opportunity has been wasted after a poor performance in a straightforward qualifying group.
But now they must give everything to the Europa League as it offers another chance for Liverpool to have a successful season and qualify for Champions League again next time out. So the Basel result could turn out to be a lucrative blessing.