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What happens now for Liverpool?

Steven Gerrard
Turning point: Liverpool have failed to qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions League for the first time Photo: REUTERS

Jamie Carragher has talked up the Europa League, Rafa Benítez is only interested in Sunday's derby, and Christian Purslow, their chief executive, insists the club won't lose out financially, provided they have a decent Europa League run.

So is this really the cataclysm many are proclaiming? Here's a look at five scenarios – likely and unlikely – that could now unfold.

1) Rafa Benítez is sacked Liverpool have had an appalling six months. Their squad was weakened over the summer, and results this season have reflected that. With a third of the games gone, they are only a point above Stoke. Benítez bears the ultimate responsibility for this. Until results turn around, he only has two real defences – blame the owners or blame the injuries. But the injury situation has been overplayed. Fernando Torres has played 13 games this season, just two fewer than Didier Drogba. Steven Gerrard has played 15, just one fewer than Rooney. And the board? No manager has an owner he's fully happy with. So if Benítez can't achieve success under the Americans, then the Americans need to find someone who can. Likelihood 2/10

2) Liverpool win the Premier League Liverpool trail Chelsea by 13 points. But beat them at Anfield and that's already down to 10, there are still 75 points to play for this season. Liverpool proved against Manchester United that they can still beat the best, and their removal from the Champions League has now forced Benítez – for the first time – to focus all his attentions solely on the Premier League. With their three title rivals likely to be involved in the Champions League right up until April, Liverpool will have a significant advantage in the final furlong. Likelihood 1/10

3) Fernando Torres leaves If Liverpool finish the season outside the Champions League they'll be forced to take drastic financial measures. Ask Leeds fans. Selling Torres to Manchester City for £100 million (with Craig Bellamy coming the other way) would not only alleviate their financial problems, it would also allow for the team to be rebuilt around players less injury prone. Likelihood 5/10

4) The club is sold Roman Abramovich has many faults, but at least everyone at Chelsea knows who's in charge. Does anyone really know where the power lies at Liverpool? How can they, when the two owners are barely on speaking terms. More than anything, a change of ownership is what is needed to give Liverpool some real forward momentum. Clubs can succeed with chaotic scenes in the boardroom, but only in the short term. To ensure extended success – in any business – you the kind of stability for which Liverpool were famous in the 1970s and 1980s. Likelihood 4/10

5) Liverpool finish fourth and win the FA Cup. Despite their wretched record this season, Liverpool haven't been left behind. They are only five points off fourth place, and still possess a better squad than any of their rivals for that position. Manchester City, Aston Villa and Tottenham are all capable of big performances but will pay the price for their lack of consistency come spring. An FA Cup win at Wembley and Champions League qualification will give Liverpool fans plenty to smile about next summer, and will keep Benítez in a job. Likelihood 8/10

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