Why Liverpool are guaranteed to keep playing in Europe this season whatever happens

Liverpool take on LASK at Anfield on Thursday night knowing that a point will be enough to secure qualification for the knockout stage of the Europa League.

The Reds could (and should) have confirmed their place in the next stage of the competition on matchday four when they faced Toulouse in France – the same side they had beaten 5-1 at Anfield.

However, a controversial 3-2 defeat delayed Liverpool's mathematical progression and stopped the game against LASK from being a dead rubber.

A draw will suffice for Jurgen Klopp's side on Thursday, though they can be confirmed as Group E winners if they beat their Austrian opponents and second-placed Toulouse fail to beat Union Saint-Gilloise.

READ MORE: Liverpool vs LASK – Match Preview

Liverpool's Europa League standings & permutations

Here's how things stand going into to matchday five:

Union S-G4112374

If the Reds lose tonight, they could drop to second in the group table, if Toulouse beat Union Saint-Gilloise. However, ironically, that scenario will still confirm their place in the knockouts.

Liverpool are only at risk of not making the knockouts now if they lose to LASK and Union Saint-Gilloise beat Toulouse. In that case, it would come down to the final week, when the Reds travel to face the Belgian side.

READ MORE: Who could Liverpool face in the Europa League knockout rounds?

However, regardless of the results in the final two matches, there is no scenario in which Liverpool are not guaranteed more European football this season.

That is because Klopp's side are – at the very least – guaranteed to finish third in the group, meaning a they would be given a place in the Europa Conference League.

Third-placed teams in the Europa League drop down to the preliminary knockout round of the Conference League – just as the third-placed Champions League teams feed into the Europa League.

While this (admittedly highly unlikely) hypothetical would be seen as something of an embarrassment for Liverpool, who were the pre-tournament favourites for the Europa League, it would at least give the club a chance to win a trophy they have never lifted before.

The Conference League was founded in 2021 and has only had two winners to date (Roma and West Ham), with Liverpool always involved in higher levels of competition since its inception.

Why winning the group is important

© Proshots - Europa League trophy

While that Conference League possibility is probably not worth thinking about too much, what remains most pertinent to the Reds in the final two matches of the group phase is securing first place.

Not just a symbolic achievement, the group winners also get a pass straight to the Europa League last 16 and avoid an extra round in which the runners-up are paired against the Champions League drop-outs.

Should Liverpool top their group, they will not have to think about Thursday night European football again until early March. Meanwhile, runners-up face that inconvenient preliminary round a month earlier in February.

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