Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers believes their best chance of cracking the top four next season will come with the “blessing” of not competing in Europe.
The Reds boss concedes closing the nine-point gap to fourth place is virtually impossible but even scraping into the Europa League involves a complicated scenario.
Rodgers accepts his side's current seventh spot, three points behind near-neighbours Everton immediately above them, is around about where they deserve to be.
But with a successful summer of recruitment, no international tournaments to affect pre-season and a lack of European football he is confident they can step up a level.
"It is a double-edged sword for us," he said.
"The players and supporters want to be in Europe and as a manager it is a great test and I have really enjoyed the Europa League (which they exited at the last-32 stage) this year.
"But you could argue having one season out of Europe would give us an even greater chance of challenging for the top four next season.
"That is a real difficult task now with the number of teams up there and the finances involved way beyond ourselves but it (the lack of Europa League action) would give us a real good run to do that.
"Ultimately we want to be a club that is in Europe and we want to have a squad which is strong enough to be able to cope with European football and the domestic league and cups.
"We will see where it takes us. We will finish as high as we possibly can but if Europe doesn't end up for us then it might be a blessing for us next year."
With six matches remaining Liverpool are only three points short of last year's tally of 52, which saw them finish eighth and cost Kenny Dalglish his job with the Reds 17 points adrift of the top four.
The chances are that gulf will be less come the end of this campaign - and it would have been much smaller had the club not endured a difficult start and then been dogged by inconsistency just when it appeared they were putting a run together.
And while small steps are being made towards a sustained challenge for Champions League qualification next season Rodgers is under no illusions about the severity of the task.
"It is immensely difficult (making the top four)," he added.
"I think the reality is we are a group who didn't make a very good start and that probably cost us maybe the chance to arrive in there.
"We will keep fighting and working to try to finish as high as we can but we are probably in and around that level in terms of fifth/sixth/seventh.
"For us to get to that next level we need to add more quality to the group in the summer.
"But I genuinely think next season we will have a real good chance of affecting it (top four) because we will be in a much better starting position.
"I have great respect for the players in how hard they have worked after a difficult start to turn it around and to have given ourselves at least the opportunity - that shows the development in the group.
"If it is not to be this year then I would have great hope that next season we would really be able to come together and with quality added in the summer that should give us a genuine chance of achieving that."
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