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    Liverpool vs Middlesbrough Match Preview

    Liverpool head into their final game of the season against Middlesbrough on Sunday in the knowledge that a win will guarantee the club a place in next season's Champions League.

    The Reds cleared what appeared to be a more difficult hurdle last weekend when they convincingly beat West Ham at the London Stadium to guarantee that their top-four hopes remain in their own hands on the final day of the season.

    Opponents Middlesbrough were relegated from the Premier League nearly two weeks ago, after just one season, but Steve Agnew's side have recorded draws in 2016-17 against Arsenal, Manchester City (twice) and Everton.


    At the start of April, Liverpool held a six-point gap over Manchester United and a nine-point lead over Arsenal in the battle to qualify for next season's Champions League and appeared on course to ease over the finishing line.

    Recent slip-ups at home against Bournemouth, Crystal Palace and Southampton, coupled with Arsenal's run of seven wins from their last nine league encounters, has made the club's final match of the season a less comfortable occasion than first anticipated.

    Jurgen Klopp's side have been in devastating form away from home having won successive games against Stoke, West Brom and Watford, before they recorded an emphatic victory against West Ham last weekend.

    A virtuoso performance by Philippe Coutinho helped The Reds storm to a 4-0 victory, with the Brazilian forward setting up the opener for Daniel Sturridge before going on to score two goals himself.

    A repeat of that performance would give Liverpool a safe passage into next season's Champions League but The Reds have endured a habit this campaign of coming unstuck in matches against the Premier League's lesser lights.

    The club have already dropped 28 points against teams outside the top-seven this season, compared with Chelsea's seven, although they did beat Middlesbrough comfortably at the Riverside Stadium shortly before Christmas.

    Jurgen Klopp's side also have the chance to overtake third-place Manchester City if the Sky Blues lose at Watford, while both a two-goal Liverpool victory and a City draw would also earn Liverpool direct entry into next season's Champions League.


    After winning promotion to the Premier League for the first time since 2008-09, Middlesbrough started the season in optimistic mood under the guidance of former Real Madrid assistant manager Aitor Karanka.

    The club made 12 new signings in the summer, including striker Alvaro Negredo and midfielder Marten de Roon, while they began the season brightly by taking five points from the opening three matches.

    Successive away draws against West Ham, Arsenal, Manchester City and Leicester in October and November kept up the club's momentum but victories were becoming scarce, with only two wins recorded by the start of December.

    Although the Teesiders have only won five matches in the league all season, it wasn't until early March that the club finally dropped into the bottom-three having lost 2-0 to Stoke at the bet365 Stadium.

    Another defeat in Boro's subsequent match against Manchester City led to Karanka's sacking, with former Sunderland midfielder Steve Agnew taking charge for the remainder of the season.

    The club have not fared any better, however, in the 10 matches since Agnew took charge, with one win, three draws and six defeats condemning the club to another spell in the Championship.

    Although Boro have struggled this season, the club did reach the quarter-finals of the FA Cup, while they have also drawn the second-highest amount of games in the Premier League (13) and have conceded the 10th-fewest amount of goals.

    Negredo has been the Teesiders' top-scorer this season with 10 goals, with de Roon and Cristhian Stuani netting five times for a team that has scored the fewest amount of goals in the Premier League throughout the campaign.

    Liverpool Team News

    Roberto Firmino remains a doubt for Liverpool after missing the trip to West Ham with a muscle injury and will have to pass a fitness test ahead of kick-off in order to play.

    If Firmino is available, Jurgen Klopp will need to decide whether to include the Brazilian from the start or keep faith with Daniel Sturridge and Divock Origi who lead the line so spectacularly in the 4-0 win at the London Stadium.

    Jordan Henderson (foot) and Sadio Mane (knee) will also be absent, with Henderson remaining unavailable since February 11 and the Senegal international expected to be ready to return by the start of next season after undergoing surgery on April 11.

    Danny Ings and Adam Bogdan are also on the sidelines having both missed most of the campaign with long-term knee injuries that were sustained in the autumn.

    Middlesbrough Team News

    Boro could once again be without Spanish goalkeeper Victor Valdes, with the former Barcelona stopper expected to undergo a fitness test on a rib injury ahead of kick-off.

    Daniel Ayala is a doubt once again with an ankle injury, while midfielder Gaston Ramirez will also be assessed ahead of the match having missed the last four weeks due to a thigh strain.

    Patrick Bamford is expected to lead the line for the visitors for the second successive game after he scored his first goal since April 2015 in the club's 2-1 loss to Southampton last weekend.


    Liverpool last played Sunday's opponents at Anfield in the 3rd round of the League Cup in September 2014, with the home side prevailing 14-13 on penalties after the match had finished 2-2 after extra-time.

    The only other recent meeting between the two teams occurred last December as two goals from Adam Lallana earned The Reds a comfortable 3-0 victory, with Divock Origi also putting his name on the scoresheet.

    Jurgen Klopp's side have dominated the head-to-head in the Premier League era, winning 16 games to Boro's eight in all competitions, while 10 meetings between the clubs have ended in draws.

    The Reds also have the edge in terms all-time victories, with 65 wins compared to the Teesiders' 42, although 39 out of a total of 146 encounters have been drawn.

    Score Prediction

    Liverpool 2-0 Middlesbrough
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    Item Reviewed: Liverpool vs Middlesbrough Match Preview Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Richard Tufft
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