Liverpool are not only fighting to stay in the Premier League title race but also, it seems, to retain midfielder Javier Mascherano.
By the time the Reds host Newcastle on Sunday, they could be six points adrift of defending champion Manchester United in their bid for a first league title since 1990.
While Mascherano has indicated he might be tempted by a move from Anfield at the end of the season.
"For now, the main thing is to try to win the league and then I will have to think about what I am going to do, but I am good here," the Argentina midfielder said today. "I can't say anything bad about Liverpool as a city or as a club because they were great with me, but obviously you never know what is going to happen because if some club can come here with a good offer and the club say, 'OK you have to go,' then I will leave. You don't know."
Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez has previously played down talk of Mascherano leaving, focusing instead on the struggle to overhaul the Red Devils with his team having four matches remaining to Man United's five.
"We have chances to win the league but it is not easy, it depends on United, so we have to win all the games while waiting for United to drop some points," Mascherano said. "We are in a race but it is difficult now. They are in good form but we know they have some difficult games, so maybe they can drop some points.
"The most important thing is to try to win all the games for us. If we can win all the games then maybe we have a chance, but if we cannot win them all then it will be difficult."
Man United have 77 points from 33 games, while has Liverpool have 74 having played an extra game.
With Newcastle in the relegation zone and needing three points to boost their survival prospects, the team is hoping to avoid a repeat of the 5-1 loss to Liverpool in December. Newcastle are on 31 points, along with northeast rival Middlesbrough.
"We are relying on other teams now, but what it is safe to say is the teams around us won't pick up maximum points between now and the end of the season," manager Alan Shearer said. "If they do slip up, we have got to make sure we are in a position to take advantage of that."
Middlesbrough will be looking to maintain their unbeaten home record in 2009 against United on Saturday. Boro have already beaten Liverpool and drawn with Arsenal at the Riverside this season.
United manager Alex Ferguson faces a quandary over which players to rest ahead of the second leg of the Champions League semifinals at Arsenal on Tuesday despite a 1-0 lead.
Center back Rio Ferdinand will miss the trip to the northeast but should be fit for Tuesday after tests cleared him of a cracked rib.
Teenage strikers Danny Welbeck and Federico Macheda could play a role at Boro as United looks to move closer to a third straight league title.
"Each game, if we get the right result, we get closer and closer," winger Ryan Giggs said. "The games are running out for other teams to catch us. We'll be trying to win. It won't be easy, but if we do get the right result it will be a great opportunity for us."
Also on Saturday, third-place Chelsea host Fulham, Arsenal are at Portsmouth, Blackburn are at Manchester City, West Ham are at Stoke, West Bromwich Albion are at Tottenham and Bolton are at Wigan.
Sunderland, who are four points above the relegation zone, host Everton in Sunday's other game. Just a point behind Sunderland, Hull are at Aston Villa on Monday.Reuse content