Preview: Liverpool v Middlesbrough

Liverpool will be aiming for all three points against Middlesbrough to gain entry in next season’s UEFA Champions League, at the expense of Arsenal.

Premier League
Date: 21 May 2017
Match Day 38
Kick-off: 16:00
Venue: Anfield

Referee: Martin Atkinson
Assistants: S Burt, A Nunn
Fourth official: S Attwell

Head-to-head summary:

Liverpool    121     56    34     31
Palace       121     31    34     56

Previous encounter:

M’Boro 0-3 Liverpool 14/12/16 (Premier League)

Liverpool goalscorers: A. Lallana (29′)(68′), D. Origi (60′)

Players to watch:

Philippe Coutinho has six goals in his last eight appearances for Liverpool and will no doubt be the Reds creative spark entrusted to unlock a stubborn Boro defence.

The Brazilian will also be motivated to secure himself and the rest of his teammates a passage into the UEFA Champions League after a roller-coaster season.

English youth international forward Patrick Bamford scored in the 2-1 loss to Southampton in mid-week. The former Championship player of the year has hardly had a sniff of first-team action this season, but his technical ability and finishing prowess is well documented amongst the Teesiders faithful.

Team form and manager quotes:

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp talked up their chances of claiming the last Champions League spot ahead of the Gunners but conceded it won’t ruin the club financially if they failed to reach their target.

Nonetheless, four league wins from their last six games have put the Reds in pole position over Arsene Wenger’s chasing side – who are a single point behind.

“The Champions League, for different reasons, is a wonderful competition. You can earn a lot of money there, that’s money we didn’t have last year – but we are already in a good position.

“We are a club without financial problems and we have money to spend but it makes sense to think before we spend and that is what we are doing.”

“The Champions League would be the icing on the cake but that’s it.”

Middlesbrough head coach Steve Agnew side are already relegated after a disastrous second-half to the season; where the Boro struggled to find the net.

However, the caretaker coach is optimistic his side will bounce back – whoever is in charge at the Riverside next season.

“Over the past few years, the football club has had a very good, tight dressing room,” he said. “That’s been evident with getting promoted, and it’s what creates a hard-working and successful environment.

“That’s what we have to get back to, to hit the ground running next season. The core group has played a lot of Championship games and had success. We need experienced campaigners and to bring some hungry, committed players in as well.”

Team news:

Roberto Firmino is doubtful to play on Sunday due to a muscle problem but will face a late fitness test.

Steve Agnew has to make do without defender Daniel Ayala, playmaker Gaston Ramirez and goalkeeper Victor Valdes – all due to injury.