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Liverpool: 3rd place; 61 points out of 33 games
Boro: 14th place; 39 points out of 33 games
Last 4 meetings:
0-0 (a) 11.25.06
2-0 Liverpool (h) 12.10.05
0-0 (a) 08.13.05
1-1 (h) 04.30.05
Last 3 games:
Liverpool: 0-0 Man City (a); 1-0 PSV (h); 2-1 Reading (a)
Boro: 1-3 Villa (h); 4-1 Watford (h); 0-2 West Ham (a)
Goalscorers (league; more than one goal):
Liverpool: Kuyt 10; Crouch 9; Bellamy 7; Gerrard 5; Alonso, Fowler, Garcia 3; Agger, Gonzalez 2
Boro: Yakubu 12; Viduka 9; Arca, Downing, Morrison, Rochemback 2
Referee: Graham Poll (oh boy!)
Guess at a squad:
Finnan Carra Agger Riise
Pennant Gerrard Alonso Gonzalez
Don’t honestly know if I even think this side is likely to play. But I do know I want to see Liverpool take the game to Boro. Bad tastes linger from the 0-0 at the Riverside in November. As they do from the games against Villa and City recently, although I do realize those were away from Anfield.
The fact remains that I really don’t know how Rafa will rotate over the coming games, only that I’m fairly certain he will. There are home matches against Boro tomorrow and Wigan Saturday before the first leg of the semi-final at Stamford Bridge a week from Wednesday. Over the next two games, it seems fairly certain we’ll see the majority of the squad used, but the game plan in each could go any number of ways.
I want to see a team sheet that shows Liverpool’s intent. 2 strikers up top, Crouch as he’s the in-form striker and Kuyt because not only has he worked well with Crouchy at times, but with his wife giving birth to their 2nd child last week, he may well have that extra motivation. Pennant and Gonzalez are out on the wings for pace and crossing ability, especially with Crouch lurking in the box. And Gerrard and Alonso in the middle, because I honestly can’t see Mascherano or Sissoko’s defensive abilities being that necessary against Middlesbrough at Anfield. While I’ve been full of praise for Javier of late, Gerrard/Alonso is still Liverpool’s most dynamic pairing in midfield and more importantly, should offer the most in attack.
It is however worth noting that aside from Crouch in for Bellamy, the team listed above is the exact one that started against Boro in November. But at Anfield is a bit different than at the Riverside, and this is a different Liverpool team, or at least it’s a team with a lot more confidence. That game came right after the 0-3 loss to Arsenal, when Liverpool was still winless away from home, and saw Gerrard’s much-ballyhooed return to the center following Sissoko’s shoulder injury.
There’s also the question as to which Boro is going to show up tomorrow. The one that won 4-1 v Watford or lost 1-3 against Villa? As per usual, Boro’s one of the most inconsistent teams in the league, and it’s been going on all season; one day they’re beating Chelsea 2-1 (August 23rd), the next, they’re losing 4-0 to Pompey (August 28th).
The key to winning will be containing and bettering Boro’s two strikers. Check the stats, nearly all of Boro’s goals come from Viduka and Yakubu. Also, Boro was able to secure the draw at the Riverside mainly because of how well they defended from the front. Liverpool has a tendency to patiently build up attacks through the center backs or Alonso, and Boro hassled from the front exceptionally well in November. Liverpool will have to be ready for it again.
With 5 games to go in the league, any and all points are essential to see 3rd place attained. With a win over Man City today, Arsenal will leapfrog Liverpool into 3rd. We know Liverpool has the talent and ability to take all 3 from Boro at home, even though a fair amount of the recent fixtures between the two have ended tied. The four games remaining after this are v Wigan, @ Pompey, @ Fulham, and v Charlton. Aside from Portsmouth, none of the remaining teams are higher than 14th place. A good run-in will secure Champions League football for next season, as well as give Liverpool the needed confidence for the rest of the Champions League this season, which I’m sure will be on the minds. But first, roll on Boro.