LFC Talk

Match Preview: Liverpool v Middlesbrough by lfctalk
August 19, 2008, 19:50
Filed under: Match Previews | Tags: ,

Our first home game of the competitive season sees Gareth Southgate’s Middlesbrough side welcomed to Anfield on Saturday.

The North-Eastern side got off to an excellent start on Saturday with three points against a much-fancied Spurs side at the Riverside. Goals from centre-back David Wheater and former Tottenham striker Mido saw Boro win the game 2-1 and give Spurs hopes of a top four finish an early knock. They will be buoyant from this victory going into a tough encounter with the Reds this weekend.

Much speculation surrounded Rafael Benitez’s future last week, with claims that the Spaniard was on the verge of a walkout on the club. The Kop boss instantly dismissed those rumours as rubbish and said he was “100% committed” to the club and would like to be here for years to come. It was the exact response the fans were looking for, but hope of unity at the club is still in tatters after another week of top-level splits between Benitez, Hicks, Gillett and Parry. Despite these off-field factors, the players should maintain focus and look to collect three points from the match.

Ryan Babel has returned from the Olympic games in Beijing and will be an option for Benitez for the first time this season, and his timing couldn’t be better. The Dutch attacker should claim a place in the side immediately after two lacklustre performances from Yossi Benayoun and Dirk Kuyt on the flanks against Standard Liege and Sunderland. Robbie Keane and Fernando Torres will be hoping for more service than they received in both those matches, especially as they have just the one goal between them so far. Babel’s pace and power will be vital additions to Rafa’s side and his absence from the squad so far has been highlighted by the narrow attack play so far. The side is likely to remain fairly similar to the one that started against Sunderland on Saturday evening. Babel may only be used as a substitute after a gruelling trip back from China, so Benayoun and Kuyt would expect to keep their places in the side. Keane and Torres are expected to start upfront together for the third game running despite two poor outings so far. The only anticipated change is likely to be Xabi Alonso replacing youngster Damien Plessis in the centre of midfield after another quality performance from the Spaniard.

Middlesbrough will be looking to build on that opening victory over Spurs despite having a fairly poor record at Anfield. The likes of Stewart Downing, Afonso Alves, Tuncay Sanli and Jeremie Aliadiere will be their main hope for goals at a notoriously tough away venue. The Brazilian Alves has struggled to get going in English football, but his double against Manchester United late last season was an indication of the threat he possesses. Former Arsenal right-back Justin Hoyte is expected to make his debut for his new club in this fixture.

Middlesbrough lined up against Tottenham like this: Jones, Wheater, Pogatetz, Taylor, Huth, Shawky, O’Neil, Downing, Aliadiere, Alves, Tuncay.

The only change anticipated is that Hoyte will come into the side at the expense of Taylor for the visit to Anfield. New signing Didier Digard will be hoping to also make it into the first eleven after an impressive substitute appearance at the weekend.

Gareth Southgate told the BBC after that game: “We worked hard in pre-season and it was rewarded with a win in this match. We have showed that we are an attacking threat and we have some strength in depth on the bench. This is a great platform on which we must now build. For the first game of the season there is a lot of pressure but we delivered. We created a lot of chances after a nervy start.”

The Middlesbrough squad:

2 DF Justin Hoyte
3 DF Andrew Taylor
4 MF Gary O’Neil
5 DF Chris Riggott
6 DF Emanuel Pogatetz (captain)
8 MF Didier Digard
9 FW Mido
10 FW Jérémie Aliadière
11 MF Marvin Emnes
12 FW Afonso Alves
14 DF Robert Huth
15 MF Mohamed Shawky
17 FW Tuncay Şanlı
19 MF Stewart Downing
20 MF Julio Arca
21 GK Ross Turnbull
22 GK Brad Jones
26 DF Matthew Bates
28 MF Adam Johnson
29 DF Tony McMahon
31 DF David Wheater
32 GK Jason Steele
35 MF Graeme Owens
36 MF John Johnson
38 DF Seb Hines
39 DF Rhys Williams
40 DF Jonathan Grounds
41 MF Josh Walker
42 FW Tom Craddock

Last season’s corresponding fixture: 3-2 win for Liverpool with a hat-trick from Fernando Torres.


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