Liverpool's chances of playing in next year's Champions League were dealt another blow when UEFA said the competition would not be devalued by the absence of the defending champions.
A 4th-place finish in the Barclays Premiership appears increasingly unlikely but Anfield chiefs have been holding out hope they could qualify for next year's top club competition by winning it this season, having held Chelsea to a goalless draw in the first leg of their semi-final.
However, UEFA communications director William Gaillard said it was not imperative to have the winners return to defend their title.
'It is something we have contemplated and we wouldn't have a second thought about it,' he told Radio 5 Live.
'We don't feel the competition would be damaged otherwise we would have put it in the rules for the holders to defend the trophy.
'At the same time we would not be outraged if we were asked to include the winner instead of the fourth-placed team.
'It is up to the FA [to decide].'