Brendan Rodgers believes Liverpool would be in the top four had Daniel Sturridge not missed five months of the season through injury.
The striker last appeared for the Reds on August 31, and is in line to make his comeback when Liverpool take on West Ham at Anfield on Saturday.
And Rodgers reckons the absence of the 25-year-old has had a major impact on Liverpool’s season.
“Daniel’s absence has had a huge impact on our season, no question about that,” said Rodgers.
“You can trace that back to the start of the season when we played Tottenham.
“You can see the reference he was in that game and he hasn’t played since.
“The team has struggled for a few months, but we have laid down a way of working lately and they are becoming better and better and Daniel will come into that.
“He has looked outstanding in training. He looks in top class condition and I will have a chat with him.”
Sturridge spent his Christmas attempting to recovery from his injury problems in America, and Rodgers says he has looked sharp since his return to training this week.
“Since he has come back from his spell in America he has been very focused on as working as hard as he can,” said Rodgers.
“The last few days and, in particular, this morning he was brilliant. Really dynamic and strong, fast in his finishing.
“He has been out a long time but we can’t put him under so much pressure that he comes back as the saving grace as soon as he steps foot on the pitch again.”