Liverpool vs Middlesbrough Preview: La finale, décideur
Liverpool’s officials will be hoping to brush up on their French for a Champions League draw in Monaco in a few months time, should they see off Middlesbrough on Sunday in the final game of the Reds’ season.
Match: Liverpool vs Middlesbrough
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Date: Sunday 21st May
Time: 14:00 BST
After a Winter, and arguably Spring, filled with darkness but short of points, Liverpool have rallied to leave themselves just a win away from securing a top four place, with a possibility of finishing third still very real.
Rallied?! I hear you cry, given that in our last three games at Anfield we’ve taken just two points. Fair enough, and that is a worry ahead of this crunch clash. Still, in their last eleven games, Liverpool have won seven, drew three and lost just the one. That’s 24 points from 33, solid enough when you’re going for the top four, after the league title became nothing more than a dream.
Last time out Liverpool put in one of their most convincing performances of the season, Jürgen Klopp selecting two strikers and seeing it wield exceptional results as Daniel Sturridge and Divock Origi both scored against West Ham in a 4-0 win.
Middlesbrough are already relegated, but as Sunderland showed by beating Hull City a couple of weeks back, there is nothing to be gained from underestimating relegated teams that have little pressure.
That could benefit Liverpool though, as it means Boro are less likely to park the bus, something they’ve shown they’re particularly good at over the course of the season, despite going down.
Steve Agnew’s side haven’t won in three but did battle to a 2-2 draw at home to Manchester City a couple of weeks back, but Liverpool will take comfort from the way they surrendered 3-0 at Chelsea a week later. Last time out, they lost 2-1 to Southampton.
Liverpool will hope to have Roberto Firmino fit and firing, potentially in place of Origi, after he missed the West Ham game. Elsewhere, keeping with the diamond is possible as Sadio Mane and Jordan Henderson remain out, with no fresh injury doubts having been revealed so far.
A number of players could make their last appearance for Middlesbrough, especially Alvaro Negredo. They could unleash Adama Traore’s pace upon James Milner, whilst Callum Chambers will be out to do parent club Arsenal a favour. Ex-Red Daniel Ayala is a doubt, alongside Victor Valdes and Gaston Ramirez.
Predicted Liverpool XI: Mignolet; Clyne, Lovren, Matip, Milner; Can, Wijnaldum, Coutinho, Lallana; Firmino, Sturridge.
Predicted Middlesbrough XI: Guzan; Fabio, Chambers, Gibson, Friend; De Roon, Clayton, Forshaw; Traore, Negredo, Downing.
WHEN THEY LAST MET
Given Boro were on the right side of the relegation zone and noted for their defensive talent, it was something of a relief when Liverpool convincingly swept past them 3-0 at the Riverside earlier this season, Adam Lallana playing a starring role, capping off a fantastic team goal by sweeping the ball into the back of the net. A similar result on Sunday would be fine, Reds!
PREDICTION: LIVERPOOL 3-1 MIDDLESBROUGH
None of us are naive enough to think this is going to be easy, but surely the Reds get the job done? If Boro play Traore, they’ll likely get enough chances to score, but hopefully a higher line than usual from the North East side combined with Daniel Sturridge back in the side should give Liverpool enough to outscore them. Up the Reds, lets finish things with a bang.