Preview: Middlesbrough v Liverpool

Newly-promoted Middlesbrough can expect a stern test of their Premier League credentials when Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool visit Riverside Stadium on Wednesday evening.
 
Premier League
14 December 2016
Matchday 16
Kick-off: 19:45 GMT
Venue: Riverside Stadium
 
 
Referee: Jonathan Moss
Assistants: A Halliday, C Hatzidakis
Fourth official: C Kavanagh 
 
Head-to-head summary:
 
TEAM                     MATCHES  WIN   DRAW   LOSS
 
Middlesbrough            120      31    34     55    
Liverpool                120      55    34     31 
 
Previous encounter:
 
Middlesbrough 2-0 Liverpool 28/02/09 (Premier League)
 
Middlesbrough goalscorers: Xabi Alonso (32' OG), T. Sanli (63') 
 
Players to watch:
 
Having recently bagged a brace in a 2-2 draw with reigning Premier League champions Leicester City, experienced striker Alvaro Negredo will be aiming to add to his modest tally when the Reds come to town.
 
And, after a 1-0 defeat to Southampton last time out, Middlesbrough and Negredo will be hoping to bounce back to winning ways against Liverpool side experiencing a slump in form.
 
For the Reds, Senegal international Sadio Mane is the man to watch, having scooped the Man of the Match award for his showing in Sunday's 2-2 draw with West Ham.
 
The 24-year-old's searing pace and off-the-ball movement is bound to cause the Middlesbrough defence plenty of discomfort, and the Merseysiders will undoubtedly be looking to the former Southampton man to put in a good shift. 
 
Team form and manager quotes:
 
The Boro find themselves languishing at the wrong end of the table, having collected five points from their last five appearances. Their most recent result, a 1-0 defeat to Southampton, leaves them just four points off the foot of the table.
 
Aitor Karanka admits his side's woes in front of goal are a major cause for concern, and says Negredo will undergo a late fitness test.
 
He told reporters: "We can't forget last season we got promoted on goal difference.
 
"It's not about how many you score, it's about the goal difference and the difference we have now between us and the bottom three is massive.
 
"Alvaro can be [available] but we have to check. I don't want to take risks because we have an important game on Saturday too.
 
"In the busy Christmas period of this league you can't make mistakes."
 
Much has been made of Liverpool's recent dip in form, and goalkeeper Loris Karius in particular has been on the receiving end of widespread criticism following questionable performances in their last two fixtures.
 
The Merseysiders followed up on a 4-3 defeat to Bournemouth with a 2-2 draw against West Ham at the weekend, leaving them six points off the pace set by Antonio Conte's Chelsea.
 
Reflecting on his side's last two results, Klopp said: "We are a real good football-playing side, but it is always about the balance of risk and protection.
 
"We did well but balance-wise not well enough, that is what we took from the last two games.
 
"We need to be protecting, especially when you are in the lead — there is absolutely no reason for taking the highest risk." 
 
Team news:
 
Middlesbrough will hand a late fitness test to striker Alvaro Negredo (hamstring), but Gaston Ramirez (foot) misses out again.
 
George Friend recently returned to training, but Karanka is not expected to hand a starting berth to the defender.
 
For Liverpool, centre-back Dejan Lovren is expected to shrug off a minor knock in time to feature, but Emre Can (knee) remains a doubt.
 
Long-term absentees Daniel Sturridge and Phil Coutinho remain on the treatment table.

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