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Transfer Rater: Alex Telles to Liverpool

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Transfer Rater: Xherdan Shaqiri to Liverpool

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Transfer Rater: Moses Simon to Liverpool

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The joy and agony (boo, Sergio Ramos!) of rooting for Salah

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 By Steven Kelly

Liverpool gearing towards a title challenge as Klopp plots route to the top

Liverpool's interest in the results of others is not as attentive as it was several weeks ago.

Before the season began they'd have wanted to confirm their top four status as well as produce an overall performance in Europe their fans could be proud of.

They've already achieved the latter, gone beyond it in fact, and a win against AS Roma in the Champions League semifinal could even set them up for a glorious finish and embellish their proud history on the continent.

Their domestic fate lies in their own hands, just six points away from confirming another top four finish. Favours are always gratefully received however and should Burnley continue their good form against Chelsea on Thursday, the top four will be closer still.

Other results in midweek were mixed. Brighton forced Tottenham to drop points on Tuesday but Manchester United took a strong grip on second place by beating Bournemouth on Wednesday.

This may seem academic as all clubs will finish a long way behind champions Manchester City anyway but the impression given of who holds the greater threat to them for next season will ultimately be an intriguing one.

Usually the team that finish runners-up will be the focus of such speculation. United have the points and probably the league's best defence but Liverpool have also been impressive with their performances and attacking prowess. Tottenham have had another strong showing under Mauricio Pochettino.

Liverpool may look to fix their early season stumbles and thus reinvent themselves as title contenders next year.

There has in the past been something unsettling and futile about Liverpool finishing second, however. The last three managers to do so all stumbled badly the season after and soon lost their jobs.

For any team in the top four and a Champions League semifinal there is probably no chance of staying below the radar.

Liverpool fans have a habit of pronouncing upcoming seasons as their year and however this one finishes the summer of 2018 will be no different. It's starting to happen now, albeit with self-aware humour.

The PFA Team of the Year was also interesting. It was predictably dominated by City but still contained three Tottenham players as opposed to one Liverpool star -- Mohamed Salah. Some Reds fans were agog that Roberto Firmino missed the cut but some took it as a sign Liverpool were not being given their due and still surprising many outsiders.

Liverpool's glorious past, despite much of it going back 30 years, helps create an almost hysterical reaction to the outside chance of a trophy-laden return.

Jurgen Klopp seems rarely fazed however, either by outstanding wins or ludicrous defeats. It all seems part of one long journey for the German and that feels like the right way to go.

Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool's swashbuckling style have brought added excitement to the UCL,
Liverpool have shown they can go toe-to-toe with Manchester City, but consistency is key.

His predecessor Brendan Rodgers came a long way in a short time and slipped into reverse almost as quickly. It felt like a rollercoaster ride.

With two steady seasons in the Premier League so far this has more of a consistent feel to it. Klopp may feel finishing second would draw too much attention to Liverpool anyway.

He's also been helped by a frightening set of domestic results from City, so the swift Liverpool rush to predict success should be curtailed.

It could still happen, of course, but the Reds will probably need another year to cement their "comeback" and hope cup success can be achieved for now.

Other teams who've come second recently also had mixed results. Arsenal did it in 2016 but largely because everyone else did poorly, allowing Leicester to win with a points total that Liverpool still have an outside chance of beating this season.

That demonstrates how Liverpool's future title hopes lie in the hopefully inadequate hands of others in the short term. Chelsea's 93 points in 2017 and whatever City end up with in 2018 seems beyond everybody else right now, not just Liverpool.

Progression and delight in quality attacking football feels more than compensatory today. Fans can still dream of a glittering future and they're right to do so. Football without dreams is a hollow, irrelevant experience.

Sooner or later, managing a club like Liverpool means silverware and that can still be achieved.

They stand a decent chance of beating Roma in the Champions League semifinal. Although Klopp is wary of sweeping changes in team selection, preferring to keep the momentum of good results going, a further loss of points for Chelsea may change his perception.

Roma are in a three-club dogfight for the top four in Serie A with Inter Milan and neighbours Lazio. Klopp will not want to stumble on Saturday at West Brom, nor will he want to endanger his stars' fitness. It's an intricate balancing act he's trying to pull off.

He can always place a finger over Manchester City in the league table and pretend there's still a league title to fight for.

It might be good practice for 2019.

Steven Kelly is one of ESPN FC's Liverpool bloggers. Follow him on Twitter @SteKelly198586.

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