Verdict: Liverpool -1
In the last round of Premier League fixtures this season, Liverpool will be hoping to secure Champions League qualification if they beat already-relegated Middlesbrough at Anfield on Sunday.
A top-four finish has been manager Jurgen Klopp’s main aim this season, and they go into the match against Middlesbrough knowing it is still very much in their hands. All the Reds have to do is mirror Arsenal’s result against Everton and they will be guaranteed of playing in Europe’s elite competition next year, although they will still have to progress through the qualifying stages. Liverpool were at their very best last week in the 4-0 demolition of West Ham United, with Philippe Coutinho especially impressive, and fans will be hoping they can keep hold of him with FC Barcelona reportedly keeping eyes on the attacker. However, a performance of the same calibre should be enough to see of a poor Boro side who have only won once away from home all season. Quite to the contrary, Klopp’s men have only lost one of their last 12 games and have managed to keep four clean sheets in five matches. The signs are promising for Liverpool, and they could not have hand picked a better game for them to achieve the three points in order to bring back the great, atmospheric European nights to Anfield next year.
Roberto Firmino could be fit for the match after missing last week’s match with West Ham due to a muscle injury.
If the Brazilian does miss out then Klopp could again start with Daniel Sturridge and Divock Origi up front.
The fact that Boro are already relegated won’t stop their fans from enjoying their day out at Anfield, but they will admit they haven’t experienced the most exciting of seasons in the Premier League. For much of the year they were subjected to Aitor Karanka’s negative tactics that, admittedly, ensured they were pretty decent defensively, but their lack of attacking quality has ultimately cost them their place in England’s top division. It would have been interested to see where Middlesbrough would have been in the league had manager Steve Agnew been in control since the start of the season. The Tyneside club have shown glimpses of promise in some games, quite notably their 2-2 draw with Manchester City, but in the end he was fighting a losing battle with a team who have seemed destined to drop out of the division for a few months now. Boro have scored four times in the last six games, but they can’t seem to find the right balance between defence and attack, and have conceded 13 times in this period. Fans will be hoping they can replicate the fate of their North-East neighbours Newcastle, who were relegated and bounced straight back up, but it’s a lot to ask for.
Daniel Ayala, Gaston Ramirez and Victor Valdes still remain absentees.
However, there are no fresh injury concerns.
Key Factors to Consider
- Liverpool are unbeaten against Middlesbrough in their last 21 games at Anfield (W15 D6)
- The Reds have won each of their last four Premier League matches against Boro at home
- Liverpool have been victorious on eight of their last 10 final day games at Anfield (D2)
- In contrast, Boro have lost five out of their last six top-flight away visits on the final day (D1
- If Liverpool win, they will finish in the top four of the Premier League for only the second time in the last eight years
This is a massive opportunity and a huge game for Liverpool in which they will be under immense pressure to deliver. However, they always seem to play at their best when they need to win at home and this Middlesbrough side shouldn’t cause them too much problems. The great historic, European nights looks set to return to Anfield next season.
Verdict: Liverpool -1
Best Odds: 4/11
Bookmaker: Bet 365
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