John Arne Riise was one of the Liverpool heroes of Istanbul in 2005, the Champions League final’s greatest comeback.
Now, he says the Reds have to find a way into next season’s competition or face disaster.
Jurgen Klopp’s side are seven points off the top 4 after a disastrous run of eight defeats in 12 games which has left their Premier League title defence in tatters.
Winning the Champions League could present their best chance of qualifying for next season’s tournament and Riise has warned of a catastrophe if they fail to do so.
“The main target for the league now is a Champions League spot,” said the Anfield hero.
“They need to get that, it’s so important and it will be a disaster if they don’t.
“For a team who won the league last year and played some of the best football in Europe, not to qualify for the Champions League is going to be a disaster for the club.
“I still think they are going to manage to do it in the end. But the way they’re playing now, it looks difficult.”
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Liverpool resume their Champions League campaign on Wednesday against RB Leipzig after a 2-0 first-leg win over the Bundesliga side last month.
Riise is confident the Reds will shrug off their domestic woes to progress to the quarter-finals.
He added: “The Champions League is a way of getting away from all the pressure at home, because in the Champions League, in that one game, Liverpool can beat anybody.
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“Liverpool with a 2-0 lead can go into that game with confidence and know that if they play with their normal style they’ll get through to the next round.
“Nobody likes to play against Liverpool because if Liverpool have a good day, they beat anybody. First they have to get through against Leipzig and then they’ll take anybody [in the quarter-finals] and look forward to that.”
Riise also warned the biggest challenge facing Liverpool during the run-in will be managing their mental exhaustion.
“Before this season, there was no break,” said the former left-back. “It was straight to pre-season, straight to three games a week.
“It’s like the mental tiredness is affecting the players more than they think it is. And when they keep losing like they do now it’s like they give everything and it still doesn’t work.
“That’s why the players are so down at the moment.”
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