By Sam Gleeson
Liverpool’s meeting with Middleborough on Tuesday night (23/9) comes at a time of frustration for fans, management and players alike but could provide a suitable pick-me-up and a useful warm up for this weekend’s Merseyside Derby. With the added pressure of a poor start to the season, Brendan Rodgers may seek to rest some of his key players for the cup tie and give the fans a chance to see the added depth the squad now has.
However, with Middlesbrough sat comfortably in the Championship play-off positions and having enjoyed a good start to the season, Liverpool cannot afford to be complacent with this tie and risk a shock early exit from the cup. Liverpool’s league campaign last year masked our poor cup performance and rightly so, putting The Reds back in the Champions League after a 5 year absence. But this season, the club will be hoping to impose themselves better in the domestic cups and perhaps lift some silverware in early 2015.
Coming off the back of an emphatic 4-0 win against Brentford, Boro will be in high spirits and full of confidence under the management of ex-Real Madrid player and assistant Aitor Karanka. One of Karanka’s potential threats is that of his compatriot Enrique García, better known as Kike. The 24 year old Spaniard has netted on 5 occasions in 10 appearances since arriving at The Riverside from Murcia for a reported fee of £2.7M and is proving to be a shrewd piece of business from Karanka and the club.
Another player enjoying a great run of form for Middleborough is current captain Grant Leadbitter who has scored 6 in his last 6 for the club putting him on 7 goals in all competitions, a fine return from midfield. Leadbitter could provide a problem for Liverpool’s defence on Tuesday as his set piece delivery has been lauded recently in the Championship and has been facetiously compared to Brazil legend Roberto Carlos by the Boro faithful.
Others players to watch on the night include ex-Red Daniel Ayala, who made 5 appearances for Liverpool in 09-10 Premier League campaign before leaving the club to play for numerous Championship sides and recently Norwich back in the top flight. Belgian striker Jelle Vossen (on loan from Genk) is another player to keep an eye on. Despite having not scored in his opening three appearances for the club, he boasts 12 appearances for his country and Champions League experience with his parent club.
Wingers Patrick Adomah and Emilio Nsue are two more players in form and could provide problems down the flanks with the latter having played for Spain youth ranks up to Under 21 level.
However, Brendan Rodgers will as always be looking to attack the Middlesbrough defence and show off the new found depth in Liverpool’s squad by potentially giving opportunities to some of the squad’s younger players on Tuesday Night. One of the players available for this role is Lazar Markovic, who has found playing time hard to come by early in his Liverpool career and could have an excellent opportunity to display his attacking prowess to the management.
Two more players who could possibly feature in the squad to face Middlesbrough are U18 pair Jerome Sinclair and Jordan Rossiter. Both players have impressed Rodgers under his reign and both regularly train with the first team. Sinclair was handed his first team debut by Brendan Rodgers back in September 2012 in the League Cup and due to a string of injury problems hasn’t featured in this first XI since. The pacey forward has impressed for the U18’s recently, scoring twice in their UEFA Youth League win over Ludogorets Razgrad and could be due his long awaited re call in to the squad.
Jordan Rossiter’s development is one of the most closely followed by Reds fans and rightly so, the 17 year old shows footballing maturity way above his age and isn’t afraid to boss some of the bigger boys around when it comes to keeping the midfield in shape. I hope numerous comparisons with players in the current starting eleven don’t hinder Rossiter’s progress as a player as his vision, passing and positioning on the pitch are as good as many players much elder than himself. These qualities and his typical Scouse ‘never say die’ attitude could earn him a well-deserved place in the squad.
Hopefully a slight jiggle of the starting 11 will prove refreshing for Liverpool this week and set the club back in the right direction for the weekend.