Liverpool supporters in the Transfer Tavern have been using the last few hours to look back at their side’s season as a whole, a campaign which once again sees the Merseyside giants in contention for a top four spot in the Premier League.
Jurgen Klopp’s men returned to the Champions League this season following their fourth place finish last term, thus making it back to Europe’s elite competition for the first time since 2014. And given they are third in the Premier League with just 11 matches of the campaign remaining, they are in a strong position to again bring elite European football back to Anfield next season as Klopp continues to reinvigorate the club following his appointment as manager back in October 2015.
Thus, there have been many happy Liverpudlians in the Tavern over the course of the campaign, but their attentions are firmly focused on the run in and what their team need to do to ensure Champions League qualification once again.
And the huge boost they have had regarding the return of right-back Nathaniel Clyne to first team training this week could be exactly what they need to seal their place in the top four.
The England international has missed the entire campaign so far due to a back injury picked up during pre-season, with his last competitive appearance for the club coming back in their 3-0 win over Middlesbrough on the final day of last season.
Clearly, having the 26-year-old back fit to play will feel like a new signing, given that the full-back missed just one of their 38 Premier League games last season, and since his arrival has comfortably nailed down the right-back spot at Anfield.
And while the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez have performed well deputising for the England star, Clyne is a more dependable option than both, providing defensive solidarity alongside a willingness to get forward and help in attack.
More significantly for Klopp though, Clyne’s return would finally give him the opportunity to play and work out what his strongest back four is, given the arrival of Virgil van Dijk during the January window.
As has been seen so far, the Netherlands international’s move to Anfield hasn’t completely transformed their defensive fortunes, as to be expected, but one still senses that the backline is very much makeshift at the moment, which isn’t likely to get the best out of the former Southampton centre-back.
Yet having the £18 million-rated star (as per Transfermarkt) back in the team may well settle that defensive unit, and thus give them the sort of solidarity they need to book their place in the Champions League next season – their attacking talent will easily secure them a top four spot, but it’s up to the defence to back them up. Clyne’s return may help them do just that.
So not only will the 26-year-old’s return to the first team feel like a new signing, it could also play a huge part in their quest to seal a top four finish – it may even turn out to be the difference between them doing so and not.
Liverpool fans… what do you think? Let us know!