It’s one of the most-hated days in Liverpool’s fixture list. More often than not Boro stick 11 men behind the ball in a game that’s never likely to be a first pick for live coverage.
Rafa has chosen Voronin to partner the returning Torres up-front, with Riise likely to start as a left-winger, Yossi on the right. Gerrard and Mascherano will play centrally.
In defence it’s almost the strongest available line-up. The dependable Steve Finnan is at right-back, the bargain Arbeloa at left-back and Carragher as one of the central defenders. Hyypia is his partner today, but his run as a starter is surely coming to an end now, with Daniel Agger’s name at long last appearing on the team-sheet, although only as sub today. With the arrival of £6.5m centre-back Martin Sktrel yesterday Hyypia can expect his appearance to become more limited as the season goes on, although Skrtel is likely to be eased into action over the next few months in much the way Daniel Agger was.
These are still worrying times for Rafa and the supporters in terms of his future, with Jurgen Klinsmann’s arrival at Bayern Munich yesterday resulting in even more claims that he’d been offered the Anfield job by the out-of-touch co-owners. Rafa’s making it clear with every interview that he’s happy to work hard for the future of the club, the owners are keeping very quiet as usual.
Boro are three points above the relegation places, and so once again Liverpool will face a team hoping for a point against one of the bigger clubs. Most of Rafa’s experimentation this season has been in trying to break down these teams, and it’s not always proving that easy. Some would argue that it should be Babel rather than Riise on the left-wing, but the Dutchman struggled last weekend against Luton, and seems most effective when coming off the bench.
Middlesbrough: 1 Schwarzer, 2 Young, 31 Wheater, 14 Huth, 40 Grounds, 4 O’Neil, 7 Boateng, 10 Rochemback, 19 Downing, 11 Aliadiere, 17 Sanli
Subs: 21 Turnbull, 5 Riggott, 18 Lee, 28 Johnson, 36 Hutchinson
Liverpool: 25 Reina, 3 Finnan, 23 Carragher, 4 Hyypia, 17 Arbeloa, 11 Benayoun, 8 Gerrard, 20 Mascherano, 6 Riise, 10 Voronin, 9 Torres
Subs: 30 Itandje, 5 Agger, 14 Alonso, 18 Kuyt, 19 Babel
Referee: Andre Marriner