Philippe Coutinho is relishing the ‘healthy pressure’ of attempting to help Liverpool secure a top-four finish and explained why he believes the club deserves a return to Champions League football.
The Reds go into this weekend in third place in the Premier League table and with their fate firmly within their own grasp as they prepare for their final trio of fixtures.
That said, Coutinho knows there is little room for error as he and his teammates look to confirm a return to Europe’s premier cup competition – though it’s a challenge he is enjoying.
The club’s Standard Chartered Player of the Month for April told Liverpoolfc.com: “It’s fantastic. When you're fighting for these positions in the league, it is fantastic – much better than being at the bottom or middle of the table and fighting not to go down even further.
“It is a very healthy pressure. All of us see this as a great opportunity for us, so this ends up giving us a feeling of positive pressure. We are all well aware of the work we need to do. As everyone knows, everything is in our hands now, so we need to search for the three points in each of our last three games.
“Liverpool is a huge, great club and it needs to be playing in these competitions. Liverpool deserves a steady place in the Champions League, so we are trying to improve this situation and keep ourselves there, make ourselves a regular in this competition again – and that’s what we’re aiming for.”
The next step for Liverpool in their pursuit of a top-four finish is Southampton, who visit Anfield this Sunday.
The Saints currently occupy a mid-table position in the Premier League, though Coutinho is well aware of their strengths and the threat they’ll possess to the Reds’ hopes.
“Southampton are a great team with great players,” said the playmaker. “When you watch them playing, you can see they are a very good team.
“But it is not only them, the Premier League is all like that – whether it’s the team that leads the league or the team at the bottom, they’re all good teams. They all give tough games and this is why the Premier League is the top league.
“The world stops to watch the Premier League and this is the reason why. As I said, it will be a very hard game for us, very difficult, but we need to go after the three points from the start.”
LFCTV GO: Coutinho on Saints test and top-four hopes
This will be the fourth meeting of the season between the teams.
After a goalless draw in the league encounter at St Mary’s, Southampton beat Liverpool 1-0 in both legs of the EFL Cup semi-final to book a place at Wembley at the expense of Jürgen Klopp’s side.
Nevertheless, the Reds are approaching this one with confidence, maintains Coutinho.
“The team has worked very hard and worked very well this week,” he continued. “Everyone is focused on the next match.
“We are well aware we have three very, very big games left and we see this as a big opportunity for all of us, so for this reason the team will be focused from the very first minute and I think this will be key to changing that statistic [against Southampton].
“It will be a very, very difficult game, but we have the support of our fans because we will play at home. We have to attack them from the start and show them how much we want to win the game. For this reason, we have to be on top of them from the very first minute to get the three points.
“Our target is something we wanted from the beginning of the season, we always believed we could be in the top four to play in the Champions League next season.
“It is a great opportunity for us, but the last three games will be like three finals for our team where we need to win all of them to confirm our position in the league. The whole squad is confident.”