Liverpool's next three games are pivotal, says Jurgen Klopp
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp believes their next three matches could have a significant bearing on whether they stand a chance of finishing in the top four.
The German takes his side to Premier League leaders Leicester tonight before facing struggling duo Sunderland and Aston Villa.
They are currently eight points off fourth place and Klopp is not ruling out Champions League qualification but believes the coming fortnight will give him a better idea.
"I don't think we should think too much about it," he said.
"We have an away game at Leicester and these three games will give us a sign as to where we can go this season.
"Even after these games it is not over. I think we have shown a row of more than okay performances so you can say we have a little bit more consistency even when we have made changes.
"That is what we have to bring onto the pitch all the time now that we can fight for results.
"The top four should always be a target so it is a target but at the end only our performances will have an influence on this situation and that is what we should be concentrating on."
Liverpool's injury crisis appears to be easing with four players - strikers Divock Origi and Daniel Sturridge, playmaker Philippe Coutinho and defender Martin Skrtel - due back in full training this week.
That is partly why Klopp was not keen on pushing through transfer window deals once Shakhtar Donetsk rejected their £24m offer for Alex Teixeira.
"Martin needs two or three days' more time. Divock and Phil and maybe Daniel should return to training - I think Daniel on Wednesday and the other two guys on Thursday," he added.
"Martin, I think, (will train) at the weekend so these are all new transfers and that is good for us."
The form of midfielder Joe Allen, who has had a resurgence in January having been a bit-part player, is also a significant boost.
"Joe Allen was always a first-team player, hopefully it was not a misunderstanding when he was not in the line-up a few times," said Klopp.
"A few months back when I first arrived he was not here as he was with the national team and before that he was injured.
"There was no doubt about his quality but he was not 100 per cent in shape and now he is.
"That is the best news. I like his style and he is very important for us.
"It is really good to have him here so I wouldn't say it was a good possibility to show how it is when you come in (to the team).
"Now I think we both agree he is in a really good shape."
Foxes boss Claudio Ranieri, meanwhile, shook his head and smiled when asked whether he could envisage himself hoisting the Premier League trophy at Stamford Bridge on the final day of the season, but the Italian knows it is no longer in the realms of fantasy.
"I am a positive man and a positive man takes everything step by step," Ranieri said. "But you are moving too fast, like a Formula One car."
Ranieri, however, is fully aware that the lap counter is beginning to run down ahead of tonight's clash with Liverpool.
With 15 games to go, the Italian's team are three points clear at the top of table, 10 points ahead of fifth-placed Manchester United, and facing a sequence of fixtures against Liverpool, Manchester City and Arsenal which could define their season.
Having consistently played down Leicester's title hopes, Ranieri is now urging them to seize the moment.
"This has been a crazy league, very strange, but the players know that we can now do something good," Ranieri said.
"This is the right moment to push a lot, to fight, because next season will not be the same.
"This season, we can fight because it is David against Goliath, but next season will be the truth. I said I wanted to reach 40 points. We did and I am happy.
"If we take more, I will be even happier but I want my players to look at the game as being the last game. We must be focused."
Liverpool and Arsenal remain the only two teams to have defeated Leicester in the Premier League this season and Ranieri admits that the outcome of the return fixtures, plus the trip to City on Saturday, will be crucial.
"If you say to me that we will lose two more games between now and the end of the season, I will sign for that now," Ranieri said. "But yes, the next three games are very crucial."