Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has admitted the club's attempt to regain entry into the lucrative Champions League this season has all but failed.
Rodgers' squad has been unable to live up to expectations this season, sliding down the Premier League table to sit in ninth position and faces an up-hill battle to progress to the Europa League last-16 after a 2-0 loss to Zenit St Petersburg.
But the holy grail of this season - a top-four finish and a spot in next season's Champions League - is starting to look a mission impossible, last weekend's 2-0 defeat to West Brom opening a 12-point gap to fourth-place holder Tottenham.
And despite improved performances in recent weeks, Rodgers has accepted he never had the squad from the start to launch an attack on the top echelon of the Premier League.
"I believe we are making progress, even though I know I was always going to be judged on whether we finish in the top four," Rodgers told The Mirror.
"That now looks unlikely, but I have got to be realistic. With the group of players we had at the start of the season, qualifying for the Champions League was always going to be difficult.
"There might not be any trophies to show and we might not finish in fourth place."
And the lack of European football at Anfield next season may signal a rush to the exit door for some of the club's more promising stars, Rodgers wary rival clubs are beginning to sniff around his squad for possible transfer targets.
However, the 40-year-old is confident - despite the club's poor season - he has a happy and stable playing roster willing to renew the fight next season.
"Even clubs that have won the league are faced with having to keep hold of their players. So there's always going to be speculation about players here and we expect that to happen again," Rodgers said.
"I am a realist. We've got some outstanding players here who other clubs will show interest in."
"But I can only speak from my experience of working with the players here and I think they are all happy.
"Last summer was a pivotal time. A lot of players could have left, and we did lose a lot of experience when Maxi Rodriguez and Craig Bellamy left, but the rest of them decided to stay and some even signed new deals.
"They all seem happy. They seem to want to be here as we move the club forward."
But Rodgers is convinced that to avoid another season where mid-table mediocrity is the best outcome with 18 games to play, he must strengthen his light-weight side in the off-season.
"We all know what improvements have to be made," he said. "The size of our squad has been a problem for us this season because we've had to compete on four fronts. The aim is to have a squad of 25, with 22 outfield players who can all compete for places.
"If we can do that - and in the summer I hope to bring in a certain type of player who will help - then we can challenge again."