'Liverpool v Boro - Opposition Preview'
Boro travel to Anfield on Sunday for the final game of the 2016/17 Premier League Season.
We spoke to The Anfield Wrap ahead of the game.
Firstly; can you summarise your season? With a top 4 finish looking certain, would you class this campaign to be a success?
It's been quite a strange season really. If you had said at the start of August that Liverpool would be fourth with a game to go, with one of their highest points tallies in years, most people would have taken that. However, the Reds' early season form, combined with a lack of European football, had many supporters looking towards a title charge in autumn. But a disappointing start to the New Year put that to bed, alongside hopes of domestic silverware, and sights had to be readjusted.
It all depends on the Liverpool supporter you speak to, but personally a top four finish would be good in terms of the progression of the team under Jurgen Klopp and hopefully we'll have something tangible to celebrate next season.
Obviously Boro have been relegated, however, what have you made of us this season? What is your take on where things have gone wrong?
In all honesty, I haven't seen Middlesbrough play too often this season. I remember being surprised at seeing Aitor Karanka had been sacked and then realising Boro were right in the relegation mire. Prior to the season, the club seemed to show great ambition in the transfer market and Karanka seemed a promising managerial talent but things just don't seem to have worked out, I didn't have them going down in my predictions. Looking at the raw stats, a lack of goals looks to have been a costly factor and perhaps a stronger appointment after Karanka's sacking would have done more to turn things round.
How do you think Liverpool will line up on Sunday and what formation will we see?
I'd like to think that Liverpool will opt for another attacking lineup like we saw in the 4-0 win over West Ham, but Klopp is a big fan of the 4-3-3 which we have seen more often than not this season. If Roberto Firmino is fit it would be good to see him and Daniel Sturridge as the two strikers in a diamond formation, with Phil Coutinho causing damage from a deeper role.
What do you think are Liverpool's strengths and weaknesses. Which key player should Boro watch out for?
Our biggest strength is definitely going forward; when the team clicks we are probably the toughest team to play in the Premier League, the problem has been that we haven't clicked often enough when playing against more defensive sides. Beating teams in the bottom half and defending set-pieces are probably the two biggest weaknesses. The three players mentioned above would definitely be worth watching out for, particularly Sturridge at the moment as his future hangs in the balance, so he's got a point to prove and was great last Sunday.
What is your favourite memory from past Liverpool v Boro fixtures?
There aren't many games against Middlesbrough that stick out from memory, but one particular moment that does is Steven Gerrard's screamer at Anfield in 2005. That is probably one of Gerrard's best efforts among some other great contenders.
And finally, what is your prediction for the match please?
- Boro boss wants free transfer signings following another injury blow
- Warnock explains reasons for collapse of proposed Yannick Bolasie deal
It's going to be a tense affair in terms of atmosphere with Arsenal just a point behind and playing at home to Everton - who won't be out to do us any favours. I do think Liverpool should be able to get the win though and I'll go with a 2-0 score prediction.