The last time Liverpool faced Middlesbrough was in February of 2009 when, in the midst of a title challenge, the Reds lost 2-0. Ending the season four points behind Manchester United meant a better result on the night wouldn't have been enough to change the season's outcome, but it's a loss that still stings for many Liverpool fans.
It also wasn't a result to save Middlesbrough, who ended the season relegated and have languished mid-table in the Championship ever since. Now they travel to Anfield, five years on and set to face a side that manager Brendan Rodgers says will be eager to put the club's most recent painful league loss to a relegation candidate behind them.
"As a team we need to be better," said Rodgers about the need to bounce back. "We started poorly as a team over the weekend, but you saw over the weekend, the results, there's no easy games in this league. You have to be ready to fight hard, and we got caught out in those first minutes. We fought back, but ultimately it cost us and we have to be better."
Better will have to start in midfield, but injuries to Joe Allen and Emre Can—as well as Philippe Coutinho, who has picked up an unidentified knock and is not expected to be in the squad—will limit the options. And as a result, Rodgers hinted that a promising academy prospect or two could at the very least make the bench tomorrow evening.
"We haven't had a great start by any means, but we'll improve," he added, pointing to the pattern of his first two seasons at the club to support his belief. "I think I've shown in my time here my team will get better over the season, and we have to be strong tomorrow. We targeted winning a trophy this season and a win tomorrow helps to give us a chance at that."