Middlesbrough vs Liverpool: Match preview and predicted line-ups
You would have to go back to March 2002 to find the last time Liverpool came away from the Riverside Stadium with three points, with four draws and three defeats from their last seven visits to Middlesbrough. A 21-year-old John Arne Riise scored the winner that day whilst England manager Gareth Southgate scored a late consolation goal to halve the deficit, and now the pressure is on Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp to get the belief back into his side after two surprising results.
Middlesbrough fans can take heart from their recent form, despite only picking up nine points from their last seven games. Draws at the Emirates against Arsenal and at the Etihad up against Manchester City were remarkable results for the newly promoted side, and their only defeat came at the hands of the unstoppable power of Chelsea before losing to Southampton on Sunday. Victories over Hull and Bournemouth have only furthered their credentials, but fans will be hoping that Sunday’s defeat on the south coast was merely a blip.
The only two results which matter to Liverpool fans have been their last two, which have seen their early hopes of a realistic title challenge evaporate. Throwing away a 3-1 lead to lose to Bournemouth in injury time was a bitter blow to the Reds, but even more frustrating was losing the lead again against West Ham before coming back to draw against the team who started the day in the bottom three. Before that, Liverpool were unbeaten since August, but with Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho amongst the absentees, more recent results are cause for concern.
Middlesbrough predicted starting XI Liverpool predicted starting XI
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Aitor Karanka is expected to field a similar line up to that which was beaten by Southampton on Sunday, but Adama Traore’s impressive display as a substitute may earn him a start ahead of Christian Stuani.
Jurgen Klopp will be forced into at least one change with Dejan Lovren expected to miss out, with Sunday’s substitute Ragnar Klavan expected to be preferred to Lucas Leiva. The other decision for the German will be whether to stick with Roberto Firmino on the left or whether to swap him with Divock Origi in the middle of the front three.
Suspensions and Injuries
George Friend may come into contention as he hopes to overcome a knee injury, with his race to be fit seemingly unclear at present. Daniel Ayala is also nearing a return but is expected to miss out, as are attacking duo Alvaro Negredo and Gaston Ramirez who are suffering from hamstring and foot issues respectively. James Husband is also out until 2017.
Dejan Lovren was withdrawn at half time of Liverpool’s draw with West Ham with a hamstring problem and is expected to miss out, though he may return for the Merseyside Derby at the weekend. Emre Can is also expected to return at the weekend after a knee injury picked up in a training collision, whilst Daniel Sturridge is also aiming for a return in time for Monday night’s fixture. Joe Gomez continues to build his fitness with the reserves but Philippe Coutinho isn’t expected back until the New Year whilst Danny Ings is out for the season.
A tough one to predict given that Middlesbrough have proven their ability to defend and take points off the big teams in the Premier League and Liverpool’s frailties in the last fortnight, but on paper this should be a Liverpool win. That said, it could take just one defensive error to see the home side take the three points and if Roberto Firmino fails to produce then a draw is certainly not out of the question.
Featured Image: All rights reserved by Mike.Dales.
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