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May 21, 2017 at 3pm UK at Anfield
Attendance: 53,191
Wijnaldum (45'), Coutinho (51'), Lallana (56')
FT(HT: 1-0)

Preview: Liverpool vs. Middlesbrough

Sports Mole previews the Premier League encounter between Liverpool and Middlesbrough.

Liverpool play host to Middlesbrough on Sunday afternoon knowing that three points will be enough to secure a place in the top four of the Premier League table.

Boro make the trip to Anfield with nothing but pride to play for, but Steve Agnew will want to see his players put in a performance as he looks to put his name into the hat for the managerial job next season.


A delighted Jurgen Klopp after the Premier League game between West Bromwich Albion and Liverpool on April 16, 2017© SilverHub

Earlier this season, it appeared that Liverpool may have been capable of launching a challenge on the league title but after it soon became apparent that Chelsea would lead the way, attention turned to claiming a Champions League spot for next season.

After their drab goalless draw against Southampton earlier this month, there were fears that the pressure was starting to get to Jurgen Klopp and his players, but they eradicated any doubt that they have got the firepower to achieve their target with last weekend's 4-0 destruction of West Ham United at the London Stadium.

Klopp had turned full circle from his negative approach against the Saints by selecting each of Adam Lallana, Philippe Coutinho, Divock Origi and Daniel Sturridge, and they all contributed to arguably the most important three points of Klopp's reign.

The most impressive aspect of the performance was how Liverpool responded to squandering early chances in England's capital because in previous matches missed opportunities have set the tone for the remainder of the game, but they were both relentless and clinical during the final hour.

There is still work to do this weekend because Middlesbrough will not want to return to the Championship having suffered another defeat, but if the Merseyside giants can handle the occasion, they will surely gain the three points they require to finally see off the challenge of Arsenal, who are waiting to strike should they slip up.

With Roberto Firmino unlikely to start, Daniel Sturridge is expected to feature for a second game in succession but after netting just his third league goal of the campaign last week, he will have the confidence to potentially sign off his Liverpool career in style, if as expected he moves on in the summer.

Recent form: WWLWDW


Steve Agnew on the touchline during the Premier League game between Middlesbrough and Manchester United on March 19, 2017© SilverHub

After just one season back in the top flight, Middlesbrough will be hoping to mark their return to the Championship with a win against the odds but regardless of the result this weekend, you would expect significant changes to occur during the summer.

That is despite 14 first-team signings being completed throughout the current campaign but for one reason or another, they have not gelled under Aitor Karanka or Agnew and they face the prospect of moving back to the second tier with the fewest wins and goals this season.

It is difficult to criticise Boro's defensive record because it is the best in the bottom half of the table, but with Victor Valdes, Calum Chambers and Ben Gibson all unlikely to be at the Riverside Stadium next season, their most impressive performers this term are likely to be playing elsewhere.

The main positive for Boro ahead of the trip to Anfield is that they have generally played well on their trips to the top clubs, with a 1-1 draw being recorded at Manchester City and one-goal defeats occurring at both Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United.

It is small consolation after 37 matches which have yielded just five victories, but if Middlesbrough play with freedom this weekend there is evidence to suggest that they are capable of putting a dent in Liverpool's hopes of remaining above Arsenal.

Agnew has won just one of his 10 matches in temporary charge of Boro - which came over bottom side Sunderland - but despite the likelihood that he will be replaced in the summer, he will demand a professional display from his players as they start preparations for a push for promotion next season.

Recent form: LLWDLL

Team News

Roberto Firmino in action during the Premier League game between Liverpool and Everton on April 1, 2017© SilverHub

Klopp has indicated that the club's medical team will make a late decision on the fitness of Firmino, who was still absent from training on Friday morning.

Jordan Henderson also remains missing, but Klopp will have the same players available to him who started against West Ham.

Agnew must decide whether to go with two in attack at Anfield, but one of Patrick Bamford or Alvaro Negredo is likely to drop down to the bench.

That could lead to Adama Traore being recalled to the starting lineup, while Grant Leadbitter is also pushing for an appearance in the first XI.

Liverpool possible starting lineup:
Mignolet, Clyne, Lovren, Matip, Milner, Can, Wijnaldum, Lallana, Coutinho, Origi, Sturridge

Middlesbrough possible starting lineup:
Guzan, Fabio, Chambers, Gibson, Friend, De Roon, Clayton, Leadbitter, Traore, Downing, Bamford

Head To Head

Sunday's match will represent the 147th time in which these two clubs have faced each other in a competitive fixture, with Liverpool winning 65 times in comparison to 42 victories for Boro.

However, the North-East outfit have claimed just one success in their last 11 attempts, which came via a 2-0 win at the Riverside Stadium in 2009.

In the two matches since that game, Liverpool have prevailed on penalties in the League Cup and eased to a 3-0 victory away at Boro earlier this season.

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We say: Liverpool 2-0 Middlesbrough

Liverpool are heavy favourites to win this fixture for a reason but with the stakes so high, do not expect Klopp's side to run away with this. They have shown already this season that they do not always score a lot of goals in front of their own supporters - especially against lesser opposition - but they should still have enough to at least earn a place in the final qualifying round of next season's Champions League.

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Roberto Firmino flashes a smile ahead of the Premier League game between Liverpool and Southampton on May 7, 2017
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