Liverpool must wave goodbye to any lingering Premier League title hopes if they cannot beat Manchester City on Monday (AEDT), according to Reds great Jamie Carragher.
A slump in form from Jurgen Klopp's injury-hit team has seen last season's champions fall seven points behind leaders City, who have a game in hand.
The Anfield clash could yet turn around Liverpool's season if they can rouse themselves back to last season's high standards.
But Carragher is taking a pragmatic view of the title picture, suggesting Liverpool need to stabilise and make sure of a top-four finish.
His verdict follows Liverpool left-back Andy Robertson saying the champions, who sit fourth, are not currently in title contention after Thursday's 1-0 home loss to Brighton and Hove Albion.
"Liverpool have to be looking at the top four positions, and to say the obvious, take each game as it comes because the form is so down," Carragher said.
"There are so many changes to the team that you are never quite sure what it's going to be. Alisson was out at the last minute against Brighton and Liverpool are still waiting for players to come back.
"So, I think from now, if you were to offer Liverpool a top-four finish they would take that and shake on it. That should be the mindset for Liverpool because that is what they are aiming for at the moment.
"If they could get back into the title race – and, to do that, they would have to beat City on Sunday – you could maybe see where they are with seven or eight games to go. Hopefully from Liverpool's perspective, City could have some sort of drop."
Liverpool have suffered without Virgil van Dijk, their defensive leader who has been absent since sustaining a knee injury in the derby with Everton on October 17. He is not expected to play again this season.
From the beginning of last season through to that Merseyside derby this term, van Dijk was ever-present in the league and Liverpool racked up an average of 2.5 points in each match, winning 81.4 per cent of games to end a 30-year wait for an English league title.
But since that Everton draw, the points return has fallen to 1.8 per Premier League game, with the win rate tumbling to 47.1 per cent.
Carragher, who was speaking to Sky Sports' Pitch to Post podcast, described City's form as "out of this world" after Pep Guardiola's men racked up a 13th straight win across all competitions when beating Burnley 2-0 on Thursday.
That is the longest winning run by a Premier League side since Arsenal also put 13 together in a row between March and August 2002.
But Carragher stressed: "It's impossible to keep that going, City cannot win every single game so I would expect them to drop points at some stage.
"But the problem for Liverpool is that the gap is too big – and it certainly will be if they fail to win at Anfield."