League Cup Preview: Liverpool v Middlesbrough

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Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool face their first cup encounter of the season on Tuesday night, as they host Middlesbrough in the League Cup. Ben Twelves looks ahead to the clash.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, September 13, 2014: Liverpool's manager Brendan Rodgers against Aston Villa during the Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Liverpool return to action against Championship side Middlesbrough at Anfield in the League Cup, currently branded as the Capital One Cup, on Tuesday night. It’s a fixture that the Reds will be looking to use to reinstall a winning mentality within the squad after Saturday’s horror show in London.

The match will see boss Brendan Rodgers make a number of changes to his side, as he looks to preserve the fitness of those available due to injuries to key players, with one eye on the small matter of the first Merseyside Derby of the season this coming Saturday.

The Reds will want to remain competitive in the competition however and certainly improve on last season’s disappointment of a 3rd round exit after a 1-0 defeat at the hands of David Moyes’ struggling Manchester United side at Old Trafford.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Wednesday, September 25, 2013: Liverpool's manager Brendan Rodgers during the Football League Cup 3rd Round match against Manchester United at Old Trafford. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Rodgers is yet to face a Middlesbrough team during his time at the club and Tuesday’s game will be the first meeting between the two sides since February 2009, when the Teeside club were last in the Premier League.

The fixture saw Gareth Southgate’s men – who had Brad Jones in goal for the match – inflict a painful 2-0 defeat on Rafael Benitez’s title chasing team at the Riverside Stadium, thanks to an own-goal from Xabi Alonso via a Stewart Downing corner,  and a second half strike from one time rumoured Liverpool transfer target, Sanli Tuncay.

Only two Liverpool players who featured that afternoon remain at the club – Steven Gerrard and Martin Skrtel – and none of the Middlesbrough team that played for Southgate that day remain on Wearside.

 

Team News

Glen Johnson, Jon Flanagan, Joe Allen and Emre Can are all still sidelined and will therefore miss the cup clash, as will Daniel Sturridge – who is hoping to be fit for the weekend’s derby match.

Jordan Henderson and Philippe Coutinho are the latest names to be added to the ever-increasing injury list at Anfield and both are being assessed. With Rodgers short of options, the Reds’ boss has confirmed his squad could include a couple of the clubs’ youngsters which could include players such as Jordan Rossiter, Jerome Sinclair and Lloyd Jones.

The Liverpool manager is therefore set to make changes to the side that slumped to a horrible 3-1 defeat at West Ham on Saturday, and a number of squad players will be hoping for action in Tuesday’s cup encounter.

Captain Steven Gerrard is nailed on to be one of those players afforded a rest as his ageing legs become an increasing problem and other players who have featured prominently such as Jordan Mario Balotelli, Alberto Moreno, Raheem Sterling and Adam Lallana – since his return to injury – could all be given the night off, too.

MIAMI, USA - Monday, August 4, 2014: Liverpool's Rickie Lambert in action against Manchester United during the International Champions Cup Final match at the SunLife Stadium on day fifteen of the club's USA Tour. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

With changes expected, the Liverpool boss confirmed that Rickie Lambert will receive his first start in a Liverpool shirt, as Rodgers alluded to in his pre-match press conference, and fellow squad members Jones, Kolo Toure, Jose Enrique and Suso could also all begin the match for the Reds as they hope to receive their first starts of the season.

 

Opposition

Middlesbrough have started their 6th season in the second tier since relegation in 2009 relatively well under Spanish manager Aitor Karanka, who took the job in November 2013 following the sacking of former club legend Tony Mowbray.

They currently sit 5th in the tablet with 15 points to show from their first 8 league games, and they arrive at Anfield full of confidence after three straight wins and thumping Brentford 4-0 at home on Saturday afternoon.

Karanka has called upon his relationship with Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho – to whom he was assistant manager at Real Madrid – to make the inspired loan signings Patrick Bamford, Kenneth Omeruo and Jamal Blackman in the hope of their talent firing the club back to the Premier League. Karanka’s squad also includes former Reds centre back Daniel Ayala, who made five Premier League appearances under Rafa Benitez.

Tuesday’s opposition also have history in this competition having finished as runners-up two years running in 1997 and 98 after losing to Leicester and Chelsea respectively. However, ‘Boro eventually won the trophy at the third time of asking in 2004, when they beat Bolton 2-1 at the Millennium Stadium – with the help of a goal from ex-Liverpool man  Boudewijn Zenden in the final – under former England manager, Steve McClaren.

In keeping with all of Liverpool’s previous fixtures this season, the game will be shown live on Sky Sports 1 with kick off from Anfield at 19:45.

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