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Video: Middlesbrough manager tips Liverpool as “strong candidates” for Premier League title

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Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka backed Liverpool as “strong candidates” in the Premier League title race after Wednesday’s 3-0 win.

The Reds saw off their relegation-threatened opponents at the Riverside Stadium, courtesy of a brace from Adam Lallana and a fine effort from Divock Origi.

Jurgen Klopp‘s side became the first to beat Middlesbrough by a three-goal margin this season, and only the second to score three goals against the newly promoted side, along with Everton.

Liverpool moved back up to second in the Premier League as a result, ahead of third-placed Arsenal on goals scored.

Though they are six points behind leaders Chelsea, Karanka believes Klopp’s Reds will be vying for the title come May, as he told reporters after the final whistle on Wednesday night.

“I can’t say anything bad about my players. They have given everything for 90 minutes, running and fighting,” he said.

“But Liverpool made it so difficult for us. Like Chelsea, I think they are the really strong candidates to win the league.

“We have played all the top teams, and they are as good as any of them.

“We were more aggressive in the first half, but in the second half it was impossible.

“Liverpool were much better than us. Their intensity, their quality on the ball, everything.

“Even when they were winning 2-0, they kept the same intensity. They passed with the same speed and won the ball back with the same aggression.”

MIDDLESBROUGH, ENGLAND - Wednesday, December 14, 2016: Liverpool's Adam Lallana celebrates scoring the third goal against Middlesbrough with team-mates during the FA Premier League match at the Riverside Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The way in which Liverpool restored their form after a difficult run of results was worthy of Karanka’s praise, with the Spaniard powerless to thwart their impressive overall play.

Karanka joins a long list of players and managers to express their admiration for Klopp and his side this season.

Tony Pulis, Alan Pardew, Walter Mazzarri and Claude Puel have all hailed the Reds’ performances, while James McArthur, Danny Rose and Darren Bent are among the players to offer their applause.

A 0-0 draw with Southampton, 4-3 loss to Bournemouth and 2-2 draw with West Ham United poured doubt over Liverpool’s title credentials this winter.

But after returning to winning ways on Teesside, hopes will be renewed—though Klopp must now prepare his side for a tough festive run.

The Merseyside derby is up next, at Goodison Park on December 19, before home clashes with Stoke City (December 27) and Manchester City (December 31) round off 2016.

If Liverpool are to remain up there with the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal, they must now build on this positive performance against Middlesbrough.

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