Paul Jewell was at Anfield on Wednesday night to watch his boyhood club fall 16 points behind league leaders Manchester United and hear the £6.7m summer signing Jermaine Pennant booed off by his own supporters, yet the Wigan Athletic manager remains adamant Liverpool will secure a Champions' League finish this season.
As a former Kopite charged with extending Rafael Benitez's away drought at the JJB Stadium tomorrow, it is a prediction he obviously believes will be better late than never. Liverpool have yet to win away from home in the Premiership this season and with their outstanding home record sullied by Portsmouth in midweek they can ill-afford to lose further ground at Wigan.
That said, Benitez's side are only two points behind third-placed Portsmouth and Jewell has no doubts as to their ultimate destination. "The title race looks to be between Chelsea and Man United now with Arsenal and Liverpool dropping points, but Liverpool are not far off third and they will definitely finish in the top four," he insisted.
"They should finish in the top four, put it this way, with the amount of world-class players they've got. There are only two games I want Liverpool to lose in a season and they are against us. Last season we took only one point off the top five, but I think we are better equipped now to give the likes of Liverpool a decent game."
Jewell's confidence is based on a run of five matches unbeaten before last weekend's defeat at Tottenham and the gradual emergence of several summer signings, including the former Liverpool goalkeeper Chris Kirkland. Kirkland was initially signed on a season's loan from Liverpool, but made the deal permanent with a £3.5m transfer in October. "Chris is a top keeper and all he needs is a change of luck with injuries," Jewell said.
Over at Anfield, Benitez will put Craig Bellamy into the squad for tomorrow's game despite his recent court appearance. The Wales striker was acquitted of assault charges on Wednesday and Benitez said: "It is important that this is over as far as he is concerned. It is good that he can now focus on football and that he will start to play to his true level."