Jamie Redknapp believes Liverpool have become realistic challengers for the top four again this season.

The club has not featured in the Champions League since departing in the group stages during 2009-10.

They have not maintained a strong challenge for the qualifying positions since then but former midfielder Redknapp thinks that will change this season.

"They are realistic challengers," he said.

"Their ambition should be to get in the top four this year. I think it's between Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool for the other place.

"They've got to bridge that gap because 12 points is too much for a club of Liverpool's stature.

"You've got the quality of Suarez to come back if you keep him, and Aspas is a decent player."

Redknapp watched the Reds claim a second win and clean sheet of the season as Paul Lambert's Aston Villa were overcome in the Midlands.

"When you go away from home it's about grinding results out," added the 40-year-old. "They weren't at their vintage best but in the first half they passed it really well. They were calm, they were composed.

"They were incisive, their passing was quick and Sturridge was an absolute nuisance. The relationship between him and Coutinho just gets better and better."

Redknapp was impressed by the shape of Brendan Rodgers' side at Villa Park, particularly the shielding of the defensive line.

"I liked the way Steven Gerrard and Lucas sat in front of the back four," he said. "I've mentioned how good Kolo Toure has been but he had really good protection.

"That gives the others licence to go and play. They know they've got someone backing them up."