It’s high noon (except not quite at noon). Today, Liverpool host Middlesbrough in their final match of the 2016-17 Premier League season. The buildup to this Sunday has been intense for many supporters of the clubs fighting for top four spots, like a barrage of points and permutations raining down from above, but let’s break it down for Liverpool. A win today guarantees at worst a playoff spot for the Champions League group stages. Anything less than that, and Liverpool’s hopes (and perhaps their summer plans) are in the hands of - wait for it! - Everton.
Middlesbrough activated the self-destruct sequence on their season some time ago, which perhaps will allow them to experience a certain tranquility at Anfield. After coming up to the Premier League for a cup of coffee, the hammer has come down, and they will be back in the grind of the Championship next season. Steve Agnew has tried to put a brave face on things by insisting that his squad do have something to play for. While that may be true for some of his players, others will have their vacations in their sights.
The most dangerous opponent for Liverpool’s starters on this day might be the pressure, which has, on a couple of occasions, arguably caused them to freeze up against unfancied sides. Against West Ham at the London Stadium, there was a certain sense of liberation in their play, so Liverpool supporters will be hoping the Reds can focus on just playing football and that the forwards can fire at will. If Klopp can get the players in the right frame of mind, there might yet be a golden sky at the end of the road.
Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines.
Full Preview: Liverpool vs. Middlesbrough.
Kickoff: 3:00 PM BST/10:00 AM EST from Anfield.
Television: Sky Sports 1 HD/UK (UK); NBC Sports Network (USA); Optus Sport (Australia); TSN 4 (Canada); Star Sports HD1 Asia (India); SuperSport 3 (Kenya); Astro SuperSport (Malaysia); no coverage (Singapore); Stöð 2 Sport (Iceland); other listings at LiveSoccerTV.
Starting XI: Mignolet, Clyne, Matip, Lovren, Milner, Can, Wijnaldum, Lallana, Coutinho, Firmino, Sturridge.
Bench: Karius, Moreno, Alexander-Arnold, Klavan, Lucas, Grujic, Origi.
Starting XI: Guzan, Fabio, Chambers, Gibson, Friend, Clayton, Leadbitter, Forshaw, Downing, Bamford, Gestede.
Bench: Konstantopoulos, Ayala, Bernardo, De Roon, Fischer, Stuani, Negredo.
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